Sometimes the seemingly small things in life are the ones that have the most lasting impression on me.
On a partly overcast day, where the weather can’t seem to decide if it wants to be nice or dreary, my friends and I were goofing around during our afternoon recess. Fourth grade was one of those years where I was starting to realize I was my own person and was starting to test the boundaries of authority. I came from a “good” home with two parents who loved me and tried to teach me right from wrong. I had my little pack of friends that I hung around with. The leader of our little “gang” was Kuno. Kuno was a Native American boy who had moved into our small Wisconsin town over the summer. He was fun, exciting, charismatic, and most importantly, “cool”.
This particular week we had become infatuated with “dirty deeds”. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was most likely paying homage to the AC/DC song, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. Looking back, this was probably the earliest example of popular music having a negative effect on my life. Our leader, Kuno, had been encouraging each of us to perform at least one “dirty deed” as a sort of rite of passage.
I accepted his challenge and made my way across the playground toward a small group of girls standing near the entrance to the cafeteria. As I walked up I recognized a girl that rode the bus with me and strode straight up to her. I quickly asked her a particularly vulgar question and took off running toward my little pack of “friends”.
I still remember the puzzled look on the her face. Thankfully she had even less of an understanding of what I had asked than I did. I never got in trouble for my “Dirty Deed”, yet it haunts me to this day. She was a good girl; smart, fun, and nice to everyone at school. Why did I do something that I knew in my heart was wrong? Why did I choose someone who deserved nothing but the best to do it too?
Several weeks later I had gotten in trouble for swearing on the playground. My parents weren’t too happy with the note I had brought home to be signed. To their great credit they sat me down and lovingly explained why swearing was not acceptable, in our home or outside of it. They took the time to encourage me to ask my friend Kuno to stop encouraging me to swear and to stop using foul language when I was around. The next day I rather timidly approached him about the matter. To my everlasting astonishment he actually agreed to clean up his language around me. I’m still amazed to this day that such a young boy could so easily change his habits for the benefit of a friend.
After that school year Kuno and his family moved away. I’ll remember the events of that year, and more importantly those feelings, for the rest of my life. The knot in my stomach for hurting an innocent person, and the joy of confronting the negative influences in my life, will forever be a part of who I am.
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