From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Can’t We Call Game?

At first I was hopeful. Colin Powell seemed to be creating a police action against terrorists, perhaps a new way of thinking about defense. No longer bombs and ground troops but detective work and international collaboration aimed exactly at the sources of terror. I have been so disheartened since we have actually started to deploy troops to Afghanistan. I have been so disheartened since anthrax has been the daily headline. I have been so disheartened since security has been the focus of all travel, the security of body searches and X-ray machines and M-16s at boarding gates.

Now at Logan Airport there are even machines being installed smart enough to scan faces and locate possible matches. And with a curtailing of civil liberties, who knows, I may end up being held for questioning instead of flying to my friend’s wedding on a non-stop to Los Angeles.

I remember my first week teaching public kindergarten in Brookline, Massachusetts. A slight boy with a freckled face and a quiet manner was afraid because a bully followed him to school. Well, this jolted me; I was no longer working in the sheltered environment of private schooling. I was no longer teaching in a place where parents dropped off their kids at the classroom door and picked them up at the end of the day and did almost everything else they could think of to make school life smooth in between. But I was mistaken.

Jason’s parents were also at the ready to do whatever was needed. The question, of course, was to decide just what that was. His mother talked with me, she talked with the principal, she talked with the guidance counselor, she talked with the perceived bully’s teacher, who in turn talked with the perceived bully. I talked with Jason, my students and with students in other classes. Meanwhile his father took the pragmatic approach of hopping along behind Jason as he made his way to and from school, hiding against telephone poles, hovering in doorways, stooping behind shrubbery, watching over Jason as an omnipotent presence ready to spring and wrestle with harm whenever it arose. Of course, we all knew we couldn’t manage all of this activity forever.

The second week of school Jason came in transformed, arm in arm with his bully. I observed, Something’s changed, what happened? “Oh,” said Jason, “I just said, ‘Want to be friends?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ So we are. And that was that.”

Since that day, Jason has been one of my handful of heroes. What he did was so direct, so appropriate, so right. Why had we adults made things so complicated? Why had we been so fearful? Of course, I recognize that some of what we did may have laid the groundwork for the resolution, but I always feel the world is in good hands when I listen to NPR and hear the byline, “This is Jason Beaubien reporting from . . .” But NPR isn’t the whole world and Jason has a limited sphere of influence.

I am worried that learning to distrust will be, in the long run, more harmful to all of us than simply living by trust. I am worried that learning to be afraid is more harmful than simply trusting. I am committed to educating people about risks, even statistics, to prepare them for making choices only they can make. But I am not in the business of bullying them into being afraid, being terrorized, no longer trusting they can finding the goodness in other people. I am taking on the political stance of not giving in to being afraid. I am choosing to ignore the reign of terror imposed on us in the name of patriotism, in the name of justice. I choose to live from love, to work on garnering goodwill.

Last weekend, my seven-year-old granddaughter, Keely, invited me for the first time to watch her play soccer. I was enchanted, all these six- and seven-year-old girls in their matching black-and-white shorts and cleats practicing their moves. There were six girls on the team; four would play while two warmed up—the Galaxies versus the Milky Ways. The coaches encouraged passing, stressed it was all about working as a team. It was not about anyone but rather about everyone. Each girl played every position and for equal time slots throughout the game. Late in the game, three girls on the Milky Way team fell down hard in quick succession. The referee said, “They are getting tired.” And so he called “game.” The Milky Ways huddled and chanted, “One, two, three, four, we don’t care about the score. Five, six, seven, eight, who do we appreciate—the Galaxies!” And then the Galaxies cheered the Milky Ways. Two lines formed and each girl slapped the palm of each opposing team member, saying “Good game” to each. When I congratulated Keely on kicking in two goals for her winning team, she said simply, “I got good passes; it was a good game.”

I’ve been wondering what would happen if, in our war on terrorism, we asked, “Want to be friends?” If that did not get an affirmative response, how about asking some kindly referee to step in with, “People are starting to get hurt; I’m calling game.” Or maybe a neighborhood parent could simply take away the war toys for good.

Molly Lynn Watt

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