A bit misguided in my youth, a friend and I fought boredom one night by swapping around the neighbor’s trash cans. Dan, my neighbor from across the street was a prison security guard. He had no reservations seizing us with a tongue made of razor blades! I’m grateful he was there to correct me!
I don’t recall much about my 5th-grade experience. After all, that was back in 1989. My strongest memory is of twin boys completely disobeying the teacher. They walked to the front of the class at will, threw chalk, knocked down the erasers, fired spitballs and cut the line. They had no boundaries. They were the most popular kids in school. I saw they experienced a level of freedom that I longed for. I was painfully shy. I had no popularity to speak of. I strongly considered following their lead. Something inside me told me not to. I listened.
The twins continued down their path of rebellion. Just four years later one of them decided to continually push me from behind for nearly a half mile on the walk home from school. When I finally decided to stand up for myself he punched me in the face splitting my tooth in half (all for no rhyme or reason). To this day, I am unable to floss without discomfort.
In high school, the twins persuaded me to make a choice that was not congruent with my beliefs. Nothing sinister or cruel, but enough to lead me astray. It was a pivotal moment in my life. It came at a time that I should have been forward thinking in all matters pertaining to my education and future career. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t listened, or if there was a Dan available to tell me to stay true to my beliefs.
While the twins and I don’t keep in touch, I don’t have hard feelings towards them either. I’d be happy to spend time with them and catch up on the years that have expired since our interaction. Still, I didn’t have to lose a tooth. Plenty of cars drove by before I got sucker punched. Plenty of school kids were watching the entire event transpire. No one stepped up or stepped in. Where were the “Dans” at?
Today I parked my car at the beach, which happened to be on a military base. A pickup truck pulled into the parking lot and the driver gave me a dirty look as he passed by me. I’m not one for confrontation but I could tell the driver thought he was special and probably needed to get knocked down a peg or two. He confirmed my suspicion when he got out of his truck and started to urinate in the parking lot.
I approached him and rather forcefully censured his misfit behavior, particularly for missing the urinal positioned just 30 yards away and for ignoring the fact that women and children were in the area. Despite his simple reply of, “Roger that” – I could feel his ego peel back to the nub like a filleted fish.
Nobody is more comfortable peeing in a bush than a Marine. That’s not the real issue here. The real issue is the young man’s lack of respect for social etiquette. Military members are expected to act with integrity on and off duty. He clearly was not. The real issue here is the PATH that he is going down. If he can issue a dirty look and urinate in a public setting, what is he willing to do when the sun goes down, when the door is locked, and when nobody is watching? That’s not the kind of guy I want around my daughters. It’s not the kind of guy that should leave the bar with keys in his hand.
THE CHALLENGE: One great lesson the military has taught me is to “police each other.” What would the world look like if there were enough REAL men and women willing to STAND UP and SPEAK UP when they see something wrong in the world? Try it. You may have to fillet some feelings, this in turn might get you punched in the face, stabbed, or shot. Who cares!? You will feel good inside. Most important, you might just make an impact on someone going down the wrong path, someone who is willing to listen, someone who might blog about you 30 years down the road. Have the courage to BE A DAN!
Photo by Kathy