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Germs

At my writing group last night, we wrote about classmates we remembered from long ago (longer in my case, because I am OLD and HAT is not). There were plenty of interesting things that came up, since memory is a tricksy hobbit, but one memory in particular has been rubbing at me every since.

At my elementary school, in my grade, one of the laws of the universe was that no one liked this one kid. I don’t know why. I remember him as a pudgy blonde kid in a brown-striped t-shirt. I don’t remember the sound of his voice or the color of his eyes or really anything much else. I couldn’t tell you if he was too smart or too stupid or too silly or too anything. I knew nothing about him. Still don’t. And I am ashamed to say that I accepted the law of the pack and chose to shun him like everyone else, lest I contract his “germs.”

Then, in fourth grade, a new kid came to my school. Her name was Katie. I don’t remember her last name and I changed schools after fourth grade, so I have no idea what has become of her either. Katie was tall, confident, and athletic. I was nearby when she learned of the law about the other kid and I remember what she said: “Why?” She was scandalized and horrified. He had a friend or a champion for the first time ever.

I was shocked. I, the rule-abiding goody two-shoes, was witnessing someone who dared to question the Way Things Worked. It had never before occurred to me that the received wisdom could be wrong.

I did not learn my lesson right away. And yet I remember the story. If I could, I would apologize to the kid who was cast out of our school society. There is no excuse for my behavior. And I would thank Katie for showing the way to a better kind of thinking.

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