When you look back over the course of your life, there are moments that stand out that became defining moments for who you are and what you believe. Events happen unexpectedly that often change your very being and cement your stance on a particular issue. One such moment for me came in my senior year of high school.
I worked two jobs in the summer before I left for college. In the morning I worked at the five and dime where I had been employed for over two years. In the afternoon, I went to the new Burger King in town in hopes that I would get some fast food experience in case I needed a job in college. It was at the latter that my life literally changed one night.
I had been at the job for several months and just as it had at my five and dime job, the work ethic that was instilled by my grandmother drove the way I worked. The “never do a job unless you are going to finish it and never do a job unless you do it right”, mantra constantly played out in my head. It was all I knew. Because this was quite different than the work ethic of others in my generation that worked in the fast food industry, I naturally stood out to management. While this may have seemed like a good thing for me personally, it wasn’t received quite so well by my peers. They felt like management played favorites with me and there was one person in particular that took it worse than others.
I blocked out the name of this person long ago, but can picture him like it was yesterday. He started to pick on me at work and tell me that I was doing things just to make him look bad. In doing my job, and he slacking off at his, somehow I was making him look bad. I didn’t care about him enough to put out that kind of effort, but for some reason he saw it quite different and he was determined to let me know just how he felt.
One night after we closed the restaurant, I went out to my car and he was still inside. As I sat in the seat of my car, I felt a tug at my door as I tried to close it. Before I realized it he was standing in between my door and me and just started punching me in the side of the face repeatedly. I screamed, no one came and eventually he just stopped and left and I sat there stunned. Somehow, I started the car and drove through every red light in town home until I got inside and started wailing. My mother and grandmother drove me straight to the hospital where I had contusions on the side of my head. Fortunately, he had been hitting the hard part of my head and I avoided major damage. The hospital wanted to call the police, my grandmother insisted that they not. To this day, I still do not know why.
Believe it or not, work did not fire the boy and instead made us sit down together and promise that we were going to get along. Obviously, it wasn’t the place for me anymore, yet despite that I stayed and worked along side my attacker, staying as far away as possible, until I finally left for college. It was at that moment on that dark night in 1980 that taught me that it is NEVER OK to put your hands on another human being and I vowed that no one would ever put their hands on me again. We are not punching bags for others aggression, verbally or physically and there is never a valid excuse for treating another human being that way.
I made it through that night and although there are times when it still haunts me, I am stronger for it. Do I wish it never happened? Of course! However, I learned to turn rage into compassion, which is maybe what grandma was trying to teach me by not calling the police, and I am the one that is better for it.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.