Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Good Kids

I realized I haven't talked about any of my good kids. And there have been many. One student in particular, Reginald, is probably my favorite student. You know you're not supposed to have favorites, but you always do.

Reginald looks like a young, sober Eric Clapton. He is a sweet, kind, quiet kid who loves music. He is a big fan of classic rock. He and I have had many time-wasting discussions on bands that most of his contemporaries have never even heard of. Great kid. The only negative thing I can say about young Reginald is that he never remembers to bring pencil or paper. But it's almost a joke at this point.
The problem is that good people just aren't that interesting to talk about. All of the really interesting stuff is BAD. Good kids don't cause conflicts that make you sit forward in your chair and mutter "you gotta be KIDDING me!" as you read.
Good kids are good in a thousand tiny ways. They show up on time with a smile and ask you how YOU are after you ask them. They care. They remember that you're a human being. And those are things that are hard to describe. It's a vibe.
Bad kids are easy to talk about. You can tell someone about the outrageous things they do. You can talk about the snide remarks and rude faces. It's a lot harder to describe the calm, sweet face of a good girl pulling her book towards her, tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth as she tries to understand a particularly difficult passage. It's harder to explain the satisfaction you draw from a teen like Reginald saying "wait, don't tell me. I think I can...I got it!" And then you get to see that yes, he DOES got it. And good for him for not wanting help. That's harder to explain. As is evidenced by how hard it is for me to find the words to write this post.
Good is not the absence of bad. Good is the intentional application of principles. Good isn't avoiding causing pain, hurt, or frustration. Good is about TRYING to cause happiness, peace, and harmony. Good is not a default position.
Most of us want to believe that humans are basically good. We want to believe that only a few outliers are cruel, heartless, mean-spirited, or just thoughtless. We know this isn't true. We know that most people are all of those things, but we don't want to believe it. It's a hard thing to accept. Especially if good is your default mode now. But that wasn't the way you were born. It's the way you were MADE. Your mind was molded, intentionally or otherwise, into one that believes in being good. We're all born selfish, greedy, and thoughtless. We're born bad. Good takes work.
I am grateful for the good kids. They make this job doable. They keep you coming back. I am grateful most of all to their parents, who taught them to be good. Who molded the hearts and minds of their children with an understanding of right and wrong. I think it's easy to dismiss small things, and I'm grateful to the parents who didn't. To the parents who see their child angrily hit something--however ineffectually--and recognize the seeds of rage in their child. I am grateful to them that train those impulses out of their kids. They are good parents, and their children do not annoy me. They give me hope for the future.

I stumbled across something today that gave me pause. Ok, that's the wrong word. The creeping horrors is better. Retching dry heaves and sobs also work. It was a description of the WWII-era Unit 731. I will not describe it in detail, because I don't think I could handle it myself, and would not subject my gentle readers to it, either. But know that the Nazis had nothing on Japan's 731. The horrors described in the two paragraphs I read made me weep. I cannot imagine the kind of upbringing necessary to make someone think it is OK to torture, truly torture, people. I cannot fathom it.
I am generally non-political here, but I will tell you that when I read the descriptions of torture instruments and methods used by 731, the Nazis, the Inquisitors, and others, I can tell you that the interrogation techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions which have been used by the US, the UK, and others doesn't come close, and to equate the kinds of things done true torture to that is just...well, it's at once laughable and tragic.
I fear for the fate of people who were raised in a culture that would allow true torture. I fear for them and I wonder what has to happen to create that kind of depravity of soul such that the monsters of Unit 731 were never considered criminals or monsters, and were left to live their lives, even to profit from their government-sanctioned work of horror and terror. Did those people go on to have and raise children? What were those children like? Were they raised to be polite? Were they monsters hiding behind placid faces and nice words? Or were they somehow able to become good despite being borne of monsters? It's a conundrum, to be sure.

No matter what, I am glad for the children that I work with here who were raised well, and are good, sweet children in their souls. I am much less concerned with whether they are smart or well-prepared for the day than I am with whether or not they exude love or hate.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, being "good" is a choice, and one that you must be taught to value.


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