TELL A STORY: “I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”

Tell a Story” is a series of your stories. Sharing stories and experiences is at the heart of building community. After you enjoy today’s story, send your own story to The Community Talks. Stories can be about anything, and can be as short as one-line or as long as a couple pages! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Mosiah, by Maria Steriti

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, hurrying Brandon along.  Burning, like fire, filling up my insides.   I want it to stop.   The summer heat offers no relief outside.  I know Brandon needs me to pull myself together.  I realize that his insides are on fire too from the whole scene just minutes ago.  When that little child walked up to me beside Brandon, I just wanted to pick him up and squeeze him.   Brown curly hair past the shoulders, flying this way and that, a small androgynous kid, maybe five years old.  Wearing only a pair of cotton shorts and some dried up fruit juice that left a streak down his torso.  Never could I have prepared myself for such a blow from someone so small and cute.   “Hi Buddy,” I said to Brandon and then looking at the cutie pie, I smiled and said “Hello”.   These huge brown eyes stared at me, his face began to take on an expression looking as if he was watching some horror flick with a gruesome monster oozing green mucus from its snarling muzzle.   This small child produced a sound in response to my greeting.  “EewWoo”   Stunned, I didn’t know what to do.  There was a pause of some duration of which I was vaguely aware of time passing.   “Hi” I said with another attempt of a friendly greeting.  His eyes grew wider, his face more contorted.   “EEEWOO”  He repeated, increasing his volume.  Heat rose up to my face.  “You look weeiird!”  He declared.  I had some cloudy awareness that we were standing in a huge hall with many kids, drum teachers, dance teachers and parents all around.  I wasn’t sure who might be witnessing this, aside from Brandon, whom I knew was stunned into a stupor (even though I never took my eyes off of the huge brown eyes staring).   “That’s mean.”  I mustered up.

“EEEEEWOO!  You look soooooo weird!”

I was shocked, stunned, mortified, humiliated, hurt… but I was also determined… to teach.  Taking time to breathe and intentionally willing my defenses to ease, I lowered my voice and allowed myself to be vulnerable.  I always want them to see the hurt.  I’m sure that I unveiled my pain and let it sit there in the windows to my soul.  I kneeled down to his height so he could take a better look.  He backed away as he would a monster.  I tried not to be shaken.

“You are hurting my feelings.”

“But you look sooo weird.”  He repeated as disgust and compassion mixed with the brown in his eyes.

“Aww, you are really hurting my feelings.”

His face softened slightly, his brow still furrowed as his eyes darted around for a distraction.  This was getting to be too much for him.  He dashed off.  I slowly stood back up, noticing another mother from Brandon’s school witnessing the whole thing.  She gave me a tender smile.  I’m not sure if my attempt at returning the smile came across on my face.  The heat was radiating within me.  I needed to get out of the space.  “C’mon, Buddy” I managed to say.  Brandon followed.

On the way out of the parking lot we drove in silence, as I collected pieces of me on the inside.  By the time we were on Elm Street, I knew Brandon needed me to help him process what happened.

“So what was that little kid’s name?”

“I don’t remember. Something I can’t pronounce.”

“Well, I want you to know that I saw how you were taking care of him when I first arrived. I felt very proud of you!”

“Yeah, well, I’m never talking to him again!”

“Mmm, I can understand why you would feel that way, but sometimes people just need to learn how to be sensitive to differences- especially little kids. I hope that you don’t change the way you treat him because of the way he treated me. You are actually in a position to really make a big difference in his life, Brandon. Maybe if you just share with him how you felt when he said those things about your mother– if you speak to him from your heart- he might understand… and you might feel better too. I’m not saying you should or you shouldn’t… I’m just saying you might want to give it some thought and see what you feel like tomorrow when you’re with him again.”

The next day, instead of walking him up to the ballroom at Smith for Drumming Camp, I just dropped him off at the door.  In the afternoon, when I picked him up, I went into the ballroom.   I scanned the room and saw that the little kid was sitting beside Brandon on the floor. He spotted me before Brandon did. He stood up and walked over to me.  His hair was tied up in a messy ponytail. His brown eyes looked bigger than ever. He stopped a couple of feet in front of me, looked at me and said real softly, “I’m sarwee” Though I did hear him, I wanted him to repeat it for his own sake. I got down on one knee and said, “What honey?” He came closer and repeated a bit louder, “I’m SArWee.” I smiled at him and said, “It’s OK, sweetie. Thank you for apologizing. Let’s be friends OK?” I put my hand out to him. He smiled with a nod and put his hand in mine. I asked him his name, to which he recited five long foreign sounding names, which I assumed were of West African origin. Unable to pronounce or remember any I just smiled and said, “My name is Maria.”   We walked over to Brandon together. Brandon stood up with a smile and said, “Hi mum! Oh! He has something to say to you.” And he put his hand on the little kids head. He looked up at Brandon and said, “I ahrweady said it!”

“You did?!” And Brandon looked at me.

“Yup, he did!” I said smiling at both of them. Brandon looked at him and they both gave each other a thumbs up.

Getting in the car I asked,  “So, cool, you decided to talk to him about it, huh?”

“Yeah, at first I didn’t know how to make him understand. But then I figured it out! I just made a face at him and asked him if he thought I looked weird. (I held back a laugh as Brandon was very serious telling the story) He said yeah. So I asked him… yeah, but if my face looked like this for days and days whenever you saw me- would you still think I looked weird or would you get use to it? And he said he guessed it wouldn’t seem weird to him after awhile. So I told him, RIGHT! And my mom can’t help how her face looks- and people have been being mean to her like you were her whole life! You really hurt her feelings! And you really hurt mine too! I want you to apologize to her when she picks me up or I am not going to want to be around you because I don’t hang out with mean people.”

Driving home I said, “Did you find out what his name is because I asked him and he recited so many long names that I’ll never remember or be able to pronounce?” Brandon laughed and said, “Ya, I know… but everyone just calls him Mosiah.”  We smiled at each other, relieved the burning was gone.

Making our way to the front door, I said, “I’m really proud of you, Buddy.”   He stood as tall as my chin now, with his arm around my waist and my arm around the back of his neck, gently resting on his shoulder.  “I’m really proud of you too, Mom.”  Brandon said with a smile.

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