I think I may have that elusive feel-good story some of my readers have been waiting for.
I was on my way to the office when I heard a boy announce to someone else to “watch out for lunch”. I was technically “off” that period, but I knew that if I could stop a fight that I would be saving a lot of people a head-ache, including whomever was going to be punched in the face.
So I got him into the office and he soon admitted that he was indeed planning to fight. He had a severe under-bite that causes him to slur his words. “See, we fought on Friday. And I was thinkin bout it all weekend, and I’m pissed off.”
“Why are you pissed? You already fought. Let it go.”
“See Ima be a man right now and admit-” he paused as his jaw started to tremble and his eyes got watery. But he nodded the tears away. “I’m a admit he beat my ass. He did. And that pissed me off. Cuz, I took’m too lightly! He a big boy an’ I took him too lightly. I shoulda won.”
I could see he was an honest and sensitive person, so tried to inspire him to lay down his fists. I told him that if he really wanted to be a man he would do the thing that is most difficult and that is NOT to fight. It’s easy to give in to rage, I told him. There’s nothing manly about that. Everyone remembers Martin Luther King because he resisted violence, but no one remembers the idiots who beat him in the head. It’s time for you to be a man. You’re 19. You’re too old for this. You could go to jail. You could kill someone. And what if he beats your ass again?
I appeared to be reaching him because the tears were coming back. But I eased him back from the watery precipice. “Have you made a decision?”
“Ima let it go,” he said.
“I’m proud of you, man,” I told him and patted him on the shoulder.
Well, I’ll be god-damned. It worked! A tiny swirl of inspiration stirred in my gut. Man, it can sure seem hopeless sometimes, but when you reach that ONE kid, it makes it all worthwhile. This is gonna be that feel-good story my mom has been asking me for!
I sent the kid back to class, put my feet up, and kicked back. I closed my eyes and was imagining a possible future as a mediator, inspirational speaker, Nobel Peace Prize winner, or President of the United Sates, when radios erupted all around me, “Sixty-two! Sixty-two! Exits 3 and 4 on the second floor!”
I ran into the crowd and who did I see but Martin Jr. and William the Refrigerator Perry, surrounded by a mess of scrambling, wide-eyed, safety agents.
Back in the office, I spoke to Martin matter of factly, “So, I hope it’s really over now, man. You got your licks in this time?”
He rubbed his knuckles, “He big, man.”
“I tried to warn you, dude.”
He shook his head, “He in another weight class.”
Later, I joked with Dean Dave about how I thought I had finally made a positive impact and how I was talking about Martin Luther King and turning the other cheek and the whole shibang, only to have my hopes shattered once again.
Imitating the boy’s voice, Dave said, “Oh, I thought you said punch him in the other cheek!”