Playing Well With Others

Several years ago during my time at ClubFed our kids were forced into public school. Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house where The Wife and the kids were staying temporarily and told her she’d go to jail and the kids would go into foster homes if she didn’t put them in school within 24 hours. So our children, who had known nothing of public school life, found themselves in the jungle that is public school culture.

#2, age 17, is universally liked. He’s simply got one of those pleasing personalities and even temperament (unless he’s gotten less

#2
#2

than 8 hours of sleep). Even on the football field opponents who’ve been run over or knocked out of the game will return with a smile and thank him for the experience.  I heard a story related about him recently that I simply had to share.

Several years ago during my time at ClubFed our kids were forced into public school. Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house where The Wife and the kids were staying temporarily and told her she’d go to jail and the kids would go into foster homes if she didn’t put them in school within 24 hours. So our children, who had known nothing of public school life, found themselves in the jungle that is public school culture.

For #1 and #2, that meant high school, and the boys suddenly found themselves in a demographic, social and ethnic mix unlike anything they’d ever experienced (and these were boys who’d navigated the subway in Mexico City and the back alleys in rural Guatemala without a problem).

Anyway, the story goes that #2 was in class waiting for the teacher to begin when another student, a young black man, arrived to class and, seeing a friend, said loudly, “What up, my nigger?”  There’s nothing particularly unusual about that greeting in my experience, except the teacher thought to take issue with it.

“Why is it acceptable for you to speak to your friend in this manner when it would be wrong for me or a white student to use that language?”, the teacher asked.  The kid responded in what I have learned is the canned response, “Because he’s my brother, and you know, that’s how we talk to one another.  You’re white.”

The teacher, flustered by the answer and now uncertain of herself, looked for support from other students in the class.  Knowing Andrew to be well mannered, polite, and docile, asked him, “Andrew, if one of your friends showed up in class, how would you greet him?”  Andrew thought about it for a moment, shrugged, and said, “I would just say, ‘Hello, friend'”.

The class burst out in laughter at that, no one more so than the black kids, who spread the story after class such that from 9th to 12th grade, black students would see Andrew and greet him enthusiastically with “Hello, friend”!  Although it’s been two years since the boys attended that high school, his reputation follows him to this day; just recently Andrew was sent on a trip to Walmart and encountered a black kid he vaguely recognized at the other end of a long, deserted isle, waving furiously and yelling loudly, “Hello, friend!”.