Have you ever hurt someone with absolutely no intention of doing so? I sure have. I simply lacked knowledge, and sometimes asked the person a question which revealed that fact – a question that I intended to be a contribution.
Over and over, in many situations that I’ve misinterpreted, I tried to understand that my intention was good. I would never knowingly try to damage another being. Sometimes it’s been a hard sell to convince myself.
Many decades ago, I was talking to a teenaged Asian student. We were making meaning together until I asked him a question about a country – perhaps Korea or Japan. He stared at me, with what felt like a mixture of anger and sadness. “I am aboriginal … a Blood from Stand Off.” His words hung in the air as I slowly died inside.
Three years ago, at the beginning of my first year of volunteering in a Grade 6 class, I was walking around from desk to desk, seeing if I could be of help. A girl with glasses and shoulder-length brown hair was struggling with a Math problem. I did an internal search for her name and happily remembered it: “Jessie, let’s figure out what the question is really asking.” (Pause from the other human) “My name is Ben.” Oh, the assumptions that Bruces can make in the world!
This year’s group is a split Grade 5/6. Today Jeremy, the teacher, asked me to hand out assignment sheets to the kids – certain pages for each grade. I looked over the span of children before me and realized that the 5’s and 6’s were mixed in together. For several of the kids, I didn’t know what grade they were in. (Sigh) Twice I approached boys who I thought were in Grade 5, but I was wrong. I tried not to look very deeply into their eyes.
So … life is full of mistakes and I’ve participated fully
It’s humbling to be wrong
It’s reassuring to know that I intend to do no harm
And still it hurts