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.