The Courier

Howard RittenhouseMy sons get along … sort of. One day Noah was on the couch watching TV. Feeling a little peckish, he got up to go to the fridge. Now, what you need to understand is that he didn’t just rise up off of the couch with the grace of a panther, lithe as a Cirque de Soleil performer. At the time of this incident, he was twelve and had all the grace of a three-legged baby wildebeest on stilts.

And so, instead of simply getting off the couch, he did a sort of tuck and roll – the kind that breaks your leg and several vertebrae if you did it in an LZ. So … as he got off the couch – remember: grace (not so much), agility (nil) – he planted his foot firmly on older brother Will’s foot. And when I say firmly, he stomped on it like an elephant trodding on a toad. Now, I need to hasten to add (after my literary flights of wonder here) that Noah was not being malicious; he wasn’t doing it deliberately; he didn’t giggle maniacally to himself like the Joker following some particularly artful piece of mayhem. He was just being himself and twelve. However, judging by Will’s reaction, one might have concluded that Noah had committed the most outrageous crime since the sack of Rome, since the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, since Fox cancelled Futurama. A heinous and treacherous attack has been perpetrated! It’s Poland all over again! To the parapets! At least, that was Will’s reaction.

What made it worse was that Noah didn’t really exhibit much remorse (remember: twelve). To Will, his were the cold eyes of a killer, a person capable of any degenerate crime. And he let Noah know in no uncertain terms just what he thought of him. I could see a scrap starting, so I did the parental thing and stepped in (I was trying to read and their yelling was a distraction – I’d read the same paragraph three times. This won’t do, says I to myself, and myself agreed). So, as a disinterested observer, I made this comment (or something like it, but not as pithy or theologically profound. In other words, the words have been changed to make me sound thoughtful): “Noah didn’t mean it. He was just trying to get by.”

There are many people who don’t mean to hurt us, whose goal is not the ruin of our lives, our self-esteem, or our day. They’re not out to pee in our cornflakes. Nevertheless, there are those who seem to have the uncanny ability to do just that; to mash our toe (the one with the corn) into the pavement. They don’t mean to criticize our work, but do. They don’t mean to blade us, but do. They don’t mean to be idiots, but are. They’re just trying to get by – like me, like you. Maybe they’ve had a lousy day – or week. Maybe things are rough at home. Maybe there are some things going on in their life that’s distracting them causing them to pay less attention than they otherwise would.

So, when they step on your toe, give them some grace, give them the benefit of the doubt, because one of these days it’ll be you who’s just trying to get by.

howard.rittenhouse@forces.gc.ca

 

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