This I Believe

Michael - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on November 13, 2006

Take a Stand

I hear all kinds of terrible things on the news. Detectives investigate a double-murder in the business district. A man is sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for rape. The police post a reward for anyone with information regarding this robber. I openly declare my disgust for these crimes before stomping off to bed. It’s in those moments, between shutting my eyes and falling asleep, that images from that day rush through my head. I see my friend who falsely called in sick, or that buddy who told half-truths. Some might fall asleep, thinking, “Well, no one’s getting hurt. It’s not so bad.” But I can’t. I’m convinced that we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to these sorts of things. I believe in standing up for what is right.

In my early life, I did not believe in taking a stand. I used to be indifferent to how others behaved. That changed in the sixth grade when my two good friends, Jack and Tom, started experimenting with drugs. I personally disagreed with what they were doing, but I would never impose my standards on them. That would be intolerant! “It’s nothing serious,” I thought, “just a little marijuana.” However, Jack moved from marijuana to more serious drugs. He started missing school and stopped associating with his friends. His attitude became very dark and unfriendly.

I then realized the consequences of my indifference. I had allowed Jack to do something I knew was wrong, and now I hardly knew him. I’d lost a friend because I had been too timid to hold him accountable. My first reaction was to try to help Jack with his problems, but as much as I tried he would not listen to me. He dropped out of school; the last time anyone saw him, he was sitting alone on the sidewalk, smoking. I then went to my other friend, Tom. I pointed out that unless he straightened up, he would end up exactly the same as Jack. I wouldn’t describe this conversation as pleasant, but the results were well worth the temporary tension. Tom is now drug-free, following his goal of becoming a college athlete. I cannot say that I single-handedly changed his life, but I know I made a positive influence because I stood for what was right.

I learned an important lesson in the sixth grade. I try my best to not look the other way when I see my friends doing something wrong. Neither do I try to run peoples lives for them. Rather, I try to gently steer others from what is truly wrong or dangerous. Some call me close-minded for pushing standards on my friends. A tolerant person should not interfere. Perhaps, but Jack’s story convicts me. I took the path of indifference once. Now, I refuse to remain silent. I cannot hide from what I believe is the truth, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson declared: “Every violation of truth is a stab at the health of human society.”