Michelle (msagara) wrote,


I appear to have survived another Winter, and the usual snowy spring, and I'm poking my head above ground to apologize for my long absence. Which is not the only reason I'm writing this post; I'm also writing because of something that happened to my oldest son this afternoon.

He does volunteer work at a library in order to fulfil his community service requirement (a necessity if he wants to graduate high school). While he was waiting at the bus stop to return home, someone approached him. (ETA: my husband wants me to point out that it's necessary to do volunteer work within the community for anyone to graduate high school; it's not community service in lieu of time served.)

I've mentioned this someone before in a prior post, but in case you don't want to go back and read it there, I'll include it in a blockquote here:

An interesting thing occurred yesterday when my two sons were on the way to their school: as they were attempting to navigate a rush-hour bus to exit at their stop, one of the other passengers started to shout at my youngest.

My oldest, when telling me about this, said, "He was in his twenties, not dressed very well, and in a really bad mood. He could have been drunk, or on drugs, or he could have been angry at us because we're in school uniforms and he might've resented us because he thought we were rich or something.

"If he'd shouted at me, I'd've ignored it, because I don't care. But sometimes (younger son) gets upset when people are screaming at him, and I didn't want him to freeze up and miss the stop. So I intervened."

The first paragraph was what he was thinking at the time. He does evaluate his situation, and he does it pretty constantly, trying to understand what's happened and why; he is, at this point, incisive and insightful--but he didn't start out that way. He didn't think my younger son had pushed the hostile passenger or otherwise gotten in his way, because his reaction would have been different in that case.

In this case, he reacted by mocking the angry person, which drew his attention away from the younger child until they could both leave the bus. And the man did threaten to punch his glasses through his face, etc., etc., but my son felt that this was unlikely to occur on a full bus. And, you know, it is never ever going to upset his mother if he takes a few risks in defence of his younger brother. Ever.

Yes. The young man who approached my son today was the man who had reacted so strongly on the bus. My younger son had bumped into the man while in full school back-pack, and my guess is he didn't realize it.

My older son didn't immediately recognize the man of this anecdote, and wouldn't have associated him with the event because it was short and it happened a while ago now; the man, however, recognized him. He approached my son to apologize for the way he'd reacted; he told my son he'd nearly lost his footing, which actually startled him enough to scare him, and his reactions came out of that.

In retrospect, he realized what had happened, and realized that my oldest son's less-than-polite response was the result of a desire to protect his younger brother -- and he wanted to both apologize and to let my son know that he thought that watching out for one's kid brother was the right thing to do.

My son was surprised, but happy. He has always been aware that everyone has bad days, because he has them and he can extrapolate--he didn't automatically assume that the man on the bus was somehow evil, or that his anger was motivated by personal enmity. But it was a nice reinforcement of what he intellectually knows.

We all have bad days; when we have them in public, there's always a chance that the single impression we'll have a chance to leave on a total stranger is going to be a bad one. We often regret the inability to sit on the stress in a way that doesn't splatter it (figuratively) across the landscape.

But I think very, very few people would approach a total stranger to apologize for the severity of his reaction; people often have a problem apologizing to people they've known for years. I think it takes a particular kind of courage, because there's no guarantee at all that the apology will be accepted or appreciated, and the act of apology is also in some ways an act of vulnerability.

So I wanted to mention this in the same forum in which I mentioned the previous incident -- and if, by some small chance -- the man involved is reading this, to say Thank You.
Tags: life is surprising
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