Cheers and Jeers: the dichotomy within us all

A cool breeze blew across the track, scattering the boisterous laughter of our middle school runners. Eight fifth-grade girls settled into their lanes for the fifty meter dash. Behind them, another eight girls awaited their heat. Milling around were about twenty-five fifth grade boys, stretching their muscles for their upcoming race.

Two of the girls at the line were special education students.

As the runners prepared for the starting gun shot, a cheer cut through the other noises of this middle school track and field day. The fifth grade boys had raised their voices as one, chanting in unison, “Let’s go, Katy, let’s go!”

Listening to those boys honestly and openly cheer on two of their classmates who would typically get made fun of in most other public schools brought tears to my eyes and a hitch in my chest.

Later that night I confronted three of the boys who had been there. I told them I was proud of them and that what they had done was amazing. They shrugged nonchalantly, as if this public show of support was nothing. “We love Katy. She’s everyone’s best friend.”

That sentiment was not the case for a group of sixth grade boys. Earlier, I’d had the unfortunate experience of standing within ear shot of them. Instead of supporting the fifty meter dash runners, they were placing bets on whom would lose each heat.

“She’s too fat to run.”

“He’s so stupid. What a loser.”

“INSERT EVEN WORSE COMMENTARY HERE.”

Sadly, a few adults were sitting with the boys. Even more disturbing was the fact that some of them laughed along with the preteens and their completely unacceptable behavior. Heck, they may as well have been jeering right along with the kids.

This dichotomy reminded me of the keynote speaker at our Dear Daughter’s induction into Honor Society the week before. Highly paraphrased by me, the retired principal told the story of a Native American chief discussing the two types of wolves within us–the good ones and the bad ones.

When asked which wolf would win, the chief replied, “The one you feed.”

And so, you must ask yourself, which wolf do you feed?

Curious minds want to know.

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6 responses to “Cheers and Jeers: the dichotomy within us all

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts, but I loved this one in particular. The story you closed with gave me chills!

    Happy writing,
    Laura

  2. I can’t claim to have never made fun of anybody, but it’s typically my friends, and we joke back and forth with one another. I was never the bully in school, anyway.

    It’s funny, “The Wolf You Feed” is the tentative title of my second werewolf novel, specifically after that…parable? I guess you’d call it that.

    • Sounds like a great novel! I’m sold!

      And yes, we are all guilty of gossip on some level–admittedly to my close family and friends–but I think public cruelty and bullying in packs goes above and beyond.

      • I think it’s the groupthink that’ll do it. It’s so easy to get in a negative frenzy with a bunch of people piling on 😦

      • Yep. Kind of reminds me of The Oxbow Incident. Great book, heartbreaking story. It really shows how easily we are swayed by the group/mob mentality. It is so hard to stand on your own, and so easy to rationalize nearly anything if the pressure is strong enough.

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