Sunday, November 20, 2016

Keeping your wits about you

“Wrong answer!”

“Wrong answer?”

“Wrong. Answer.”

My blood began to boil.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized I was being grilled. Until THAT moment I thought I was merely stating my thoughts on an admittedly controversial topic and using facts widely accessible in the tranquility of my own home, using my own computer, through the magic of the World Wide Web. Mind you, some of the facts I had hand selected, unlike my adversary's, did not entirely support my claim. I didn't care … surely my argumentative friend would see the larger picture.

Nope. “You've been schooled!”

I could almost hear the whistle that leads to the silence that leads to the explosion.

“And you just proved my point … Lol Lol LOL LOL LOL!”

The Facebook fry-o-later has a tendency to do this to a person.

We toast our ideas, lightly on one side at first, and then walk away from the stove.

When we return, the whole kitchen is on fire.

It's not easy in this day and age to pick our battles.

As I took a deep breath and tried to gather my wits, I couldn't help but think about what really mattered.

It certainly wasn't this argument. Our lives as we know them don't hinge on whether you win a cyber spat with me. It may not even matter if we win and lose graciously, though this higher point is something we should all probably strive to achieve whenever we can.

But on what do our lives hinge?

I had nothing.

Ok … well, not nothing: We all count our chickens and eggs and relative humor on a regular basis in the grand scheme of things, don't we? This week we'll even count the roasted turkeys and slices of nut-meat pies as we hold hands for a blessing around our over-stuffed tables.

We will feel warmth for all who are with us, and nostalgia those who are not.

We will try to hold onto this feeling, and wish it could linger past the moment the last plate is washed and put away. But we will feel the tug of disappointment and know this feeling is just a random visitor.

Like a warm memory.

And that's when she came to me.

A beloved teacher … A slender-framed woman with cottony hair and prim woolen suits. Her name was Mrs. Burgess, an art teacher who taught more than contour and perspective. She was MY art teacher, for those who loved her took possession of her.

And sadly … we also mocked her. Twisting her name to resemble the white pasty substances we'd some day have to wash off our cars. These taunts would grow louder each time she ignored another tasteless jibe.

Kids branded her a doddery old woman.

Honestly … I didn't know what to make of her when I was 15.

How could she let it go? Did she not hear the mean words? The stupid chant? Did she not care that she was being ridiculed?

By the time I was 18 and graduation, I realized that she didn't care about that. Not one bit.

I had been sitting in her class, and one of my friends called me a name. In jest, for sure, but still unpleasant.

She rebuked the girl and told her she wouldn't tolerate that treatment of her students. Even if they were friends.

And then I realized her brilliance in defending me and my ignorance in not defending her. That was the day I learned that there never just One Thing. There is always Everything.

And we must pick our battles wisely.

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