In 1967, I graduated from Central Davis Jr High School. Life’s next great adventure began 3 months later. My memorable high school years were about to begin as a proud Layton Lancer. Like most kids, I was a bit intimidated. Nervous and super excited. Of course, I would be reunited with my school friends again. However, the real draw of those high school years were the girls. I was shy and wouldn’t start dating for good while. But, that’s a happy story for another time and place.
I have one BIG regret that has dogged me all these years. Perhaps, with this post I will finally shake some of my shame.
The unfortunate event, that still brings tears to my eyes, occurred during my 9th grade gym class…in the locker room. My locker was located in the same row as Rulon’s. There are very few individuals in this world who ALWAYS have a smile lighting up their face. I don’t recall ever seeing Rulon without his amazing smile brightly beaming.
Rulon was “retarded.”
Today, that’s not a proper way to refer to the mentally disadvantaged. That’s just the word we used back then. All of his classes were special education, except for gym. Kids will be kids, boys will be boys and that means constant teasing. Rulon was a constant and convenient target. A target of pure innocence. Perhaps he didn’t understand. I’m afraid he did. But, somehow his smile remained immutable.
Rulon, I’m So Sorry
Then, one day……..I struggle putting this in writing. My eyes fill with tears. I choke back my sobs.
One day……..Oh why did that day have to happen?
One day……..it happened, just a few lockers away. Two of my friends were teasing, then taunting, then harassing the innocently smiling boy. They threw him up against the locker wall. I can still hear the dull thudding clank of his body against the metal. My friends roughed him up pretty well. The evergreen smile disappeared. Confused and distraught, he couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve such a beating. A beating……..by friends……..among friends……..witnessed by friends. At least, he had considered us his friends.
As for me, and several others. No…I’ll just focus on me. I sat there and watched. Uncomfortable and frozen. Repulsed, and passive. Damnit.
Rulon’s whipping concluded. He slumped. Gazed at the floor. Forlorn and smileless. I sat there. Then I turned away. Then I left.
I raised no objection. I offered no dissent. I stayed silent and watched. An innocent happy soul was hurt and harmed. After the damage was done, couldn’t I have apologized? Couldn’t I have reached out with words of comfort and love? I had four years to do it. I didn’t.
My high school career came and went. Once in a while, I would see Rulon in the halls. I don’t recall any conversations after that fateful day. This pure and radiant boy was never the same. That gym class had changed him. Skittish. Jumpy. Confidence and trust in friends tarnished and tattered.
Many times, I’ve thought of my locker room failure. I’d like to personally tell him I’m sorry. But that chance is long gone. The boy with the ceaseless shining smile is no more. He died young….decades ago.
Today, I realize that I was complicit with my silence. By not standing for my friend, I gave my consent. By not speaking for my friend, I offered my consent. By just staring at my friend, I granted my consent.
The meek and lowly Rulon was among the “least of these,” of whom Jesus taught us to be mindful. Failing one of the least, has taught me a mighty lesson. If I don’t dissent…I’m giving my consent.
Today, Rulon, I Stand For You
I’m no longer in high school. I’m a man, fully grown. No more consent with silence. Which only gives harm license. Not in anger or haste. This time I’ll think & take action. Not live in disgrace.
Where and how am I dissenting? The answer’s HERE. 267 of us standing together.
If you are a member of the LDS church. If you oppose policies that have never been approved by the membership. Consider standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves.