Misidentifying

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

The Folder

It was a simple mistake.  I was at the gym yesterday, schussing along on the elliptical.  My trainer Derek has given me all sorts of sheets – some with info about nutrition and fitness and some that tracked my progress.  He gave me a folder entitled “Me to We” to put the stuff in.

I woke up this morning, looked at my gym bag and discovered … no folder.  I remembered putting it on the shelf of my locker before exercising but no memory of taking it home after.

First, there was a contraction, in the spirit of “Bruce, how could you?”  But that faded quickly, to be replaced by the urge to go on a mini-road trip.  I showered, dressed and headed off to London to rescue my prize.  I figured that either some kind soul had handed it in at the front desk or it was still sitting there in locker number … well, I couldn’t remember the number, but I’d find it.

As Highway 74 swallowed my tires, I was happy.  I was doing something about my problem right away and I was creating an adventure for myself.  The lightness inside was such a revelation.  The woe of guilt was nowhere to be found.  Instead, there was a simple “I forgot.”  No big deal.

In South London, I decided to make use of the drive-thru at a Tim Hortons coffee shop.  I was happy to be about tenth in line.  Truly no hurry.  The parade of cars winds itself around the building and there are big windows at the corner.  Many a time I’d sat at a table with a good view of the creeping cars, enjoying my sneak peaks at faces passing by.  Now, rather than it being “inside out”, it was “outside in”.  I looked in to see my usual table, currently empty.  How strange to feel the viewing from the other side.  I could almost see Bruce sitting there beyond the glass.

Gosh, this was so much fun.  I even had the thought that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t find the folder.  Whatever happened to angst and badness?  On vacation, I guess.

Finally, the gym.  “Michael” at the front desk checked the lost and found drawer but no folder peaked out.  Oh well.  So off to the locker room.  I knew that I always chose a tall locker on the left side so I started opening them: empty, empty, empty, lock in place, empty, empty, empty, empty and empty.  A little sigh, but really not much of one.  Papers can be replaced.

I thought of the occupant of locker number 57, but how would I find him out on the floor?  Could it be that my dear folder was hidden within?  Then I glanced at the shelf by the hair drier.  A light-coloured rectangular object was in repose there.  Sort of folder sized.  And it indeed was my info-laden friend.  All was right with the world.

How remarkable: no pity party … a chance to hit the road before breakfast … and the lost became found.  I had the feeling that even if I hadn’t located the folder, I still would have sailed through my day.  Strange and lovely.