Monday, April 22, 2013

GuestSpot: "I Guess I Can Stand The Pain"

The following is from a 2001 journal entry by Alma Jean's sister Freda Zehr, used with her kind permission:

As I wandered through the 7-Eleven in search of some bread I came upon a little boy who looked like he was about 8 or 9 intently examining the earring display. He selected a simple pair of clip-ons and was trying one on.

"Buying an ear ring?" I asked. 

"Yes,"  he said. "My mom won't let me get my ears pierced and all the cool guys in my class wear an earring, so I am going to try this kind."

"Those clip-on kind are very uncomfortable, you know, they pinch your ears and hurt," I told him.
He stood for a bit,  pondering my words, then hesitantly responded, "I guess I can stand the pain." 

I looked at him, and noted how scrawny and underweight he was. I could imagine him being the brunt of bigger bullies.

I could almost read his mind as he envisioned the earring as the status symbol which would bring him acceptance. He pulled a crumpled pile of one dollar bills from his pocket, counting them.

"I saved my allowance for a long time," he told me. "I hope its enough."

He was ahead of me later as I checked out. He was still fumbling with the ear ring, trying to get it be more comfortable on his ear.

In his other fist he clenched a package of Pokemon cards and the money. He tossed them and the rumpled pile of dollar bills on the counter.

"You don't have quite enough money here", the clerk said, counting. The boy hesitated. I saw the conflict in his demeanor---would it be the  pack of Pokemon cards or the earring?

The earring won, of course, the cards went back on the shelf as I resisted the impulse to shell out the extra dollar to help him out. He then walked out, head held high, his silver earring proudly dangling, as he jumped on his dilapidated bike and peddled happily away.  

Leaving  the store, I pondered. "Why do we go to uncomfortable lengths to conform? Am I any different from this little boy who's trying to fit in? Why do I at times feel reluctant to invite friends of greater means and grander homes to my modestly furnished, small but adequate home? Why does it pinch to go to someone else's house that is elaborately large and expensively furnished with the latest of everything? 

Sudden knowledge hit me--The pinches in our lives are most often brought on ourselves, by our own need for conformity to whatever we deem necessary to fit in, to be accepted.
I wanted to run after that rickety bicycle and thank my new little friend for the lesson he taught me this morning.

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