There must be something in the air. Maybe it's the sudden return of the heat and humidity from the summer, maybe it's the constant rain, maybe people are just having a tough week. Yesterday I was crossing campus and passed two female students engaged in an all-out argument--name slinging, disparaging comments and everything. One of the girl's friends stood behind her, arms crossed, ready to jump into the verbal fray. Later, as I was packing up my books at the end of one of my classes, a pleasant young man (I'm biased, he's one of my students) greeted a female student as she came in for the next class.
"Don't talk to me," she told him.
"I don't like you."
And that was that. The young man shrugged it off, but I wondered what he felt inside.
At the carpool line earlier in the week I watched two adults get ticked off at each other--granted, the one had bypassed the line and cut it from another turn lane, but still.
In my American literature class yesterday we watched clips from The Crucible and talked about mass hysteria, mob mentality, and persecution.
"Why does this kind of stuff keep happening?" a student exclaimed woefully.
Once a week now on Wednesdays I take L. to an art class at our local community center and T. and I head to the playground to hang out. I like this chance to run in once familiar circles: community center, playground, walk to the bridge to feed the ducks. I never felt quite at home at playgrounds when the kids were younger, but now that T. is older I can sit back, people-watch, and think my thoughts.
This week, we round the corner to the playground and T. is delighted to find the same two kids there she had played with last week--two siblings--a younger boy, and a girl just her age. The three of them run in circles, playing butterfly tag, and freeze tag, and run-from-the-monster. Before long another girl shows up at the playground and she flows effortlessly into their game, asking "can I play with you?" in mid-stride.
"Sure!" T. and the other girl respond, holding out their hands to her as if they were long-lost friends. They scatter across the playground like a swarm of newly-released bees, hair flying, the younger boy flapping his own arms up and down. He's too young to feel self-conscious about playing a girl's game.
I watch them from a bench with the other moms, as the girls-and-one-boy run around together. We moms chat casually now and again about this and that, while overhead a few stray geese honk as they make their way to the lake. I want to talk more with the other moms, but I keep getting distracted by the kids. I can't help but notice how well they are playing together, how they are all so willing to accept one another, to negotiate the terms of the game, to tweak the rules, to quickly patch up a dispute now and again. Even though they don't sit for a single moment and engage in in-depth conversation of any type (beyond a brief but intense discussion of which My Little Pony can fly) I can see they have it all figured out--this business of getting along, that is; of acceptance, friendship, and kindness.
What happens when we grow up? I wonder. Where does that wisdom go?