If a video of a wild-eyed homeless woman breaking up a gang fight surfaces in your newsfeed... tag me in it. Because I am that woman.
Okay, I am not actually a homeless woman. I just looked homeless in the video (or videos depending on how many of those punk kids that were recording me decide to publish it). I looked homeless because I had my oversized painting clothes on and enormously frizzy hair for which I have only poor grooming as an excuse.
Here's how it began... I was doing my usual afternoon routine of picking up my kids in embarrassing outfits. They are currently attending three different schools, so I was driving from school #1 to school #2 with my three youngest kids in the car. School #2 is attached to the high school (that will be school #4 eventually, but thank the good Lord we are not dealing with all that just yet.) As I was approaching, l saw a large group of high school kids gathered in the lawn of a neighboring property. There was, maybe, a dozen or so teens with their cell phones held high, surrounding two buff boys who were about to throw down. I knew it was coming because they were doing that whole turf war thing that boys who are about to fight do. Ya know, how they circle each other without their shirts on and act like they aren't about to wet themselves with fear, all the while saying "come on bro" a lot, except they pronounce it like "bra" which... you would think would be funny and would cut the tension... but apparently kids these days do NOT find undergarments hilarious. Bras = not funny. In 2016, thems fightin' words.
There was one adult (a grown man mind you!) standing in the yard watching all this unfold, and there were countless parents driving by this scene and just moving right along to pick up their children. I have decided to write an open letter to the adults in this situation, mostly because open letters - while generally useless - are often hilarious. Also, because I was so very assertive during this little episode, I feel obligated to communicate in the preferred language of the lady who wouldn’t stop honking: passive-aggression. I now present to you:
An Open Letter to the Honking Lady and Other Ineffective Adult Bystanders:
Hey guys, what's up? Hope you're having a great week! I'd like to start off by apologizing for my part in this whole mess, because I feel like any healthy confrontation should start with the accuser taking any and all responsibility for their own failings first, before they move on to address any perceived offenses. So, first of all, my appearance. It was a humid day and I was doing a root treatment on my hair because I just feel like I've lost some of that shine and volume lately, ya know? Anyways, Honking Lady, if you were merely protesting the size and positioning of my crooked, messy bun, then all is forgiven. I should have just stuffed it all under the biggest top hat in human history, but I had that assigned as Friday's embarrassing pick-up outfit. Still, I apologize if my disheveled clothing and tumbleweed hair was offensive to you.
I'd also like to apologize for stopping my car in the middle of the road. I realize that this caused you to be 1 minute and 45 seconds later to pick up your child than you had planned. I know it is excruciatingly inconvenient to have to carefully drive around another car, and even more challenging to just sit inside a car and honk while I help the youth of our nation with basic conflict-management skills. In fact, the hard work of sitting there may have exhausted you so much that you just passed right out, and maybe you weren't honking at me intentionally at all. Maybe your poor exhausted head just flopped onto the horn for two minutes straight. If that is the case, I do apologize for this misunderstanding and please simply disregard the rest of this letter.
But here's the thing... when I see two children who are behaving like really large, muscular toddlers about to tear each other's faces off, I feel obligated to intercede.
Because I am an adult.
I know, I know. there were other options. I could have stood in the lawn and said nothing like Mr. Grown-n-Silent over there. I could have called 911 while I drove by and merely gawked at the time-sensitive and preventable disaster unfolding three feet in front my adult face. I could have, like you, honked excessively. You're right, those were all options. But, obviously you didn't have Miss Bishop for social studies in middle school. I know that for a fact because if you had, you woulda been right out there with me... pushing past the great cloud of frizz to help a sister break up that fight.
You see, I remember exactly how I felt when Miss Bishop explained mob mentality to our class for the first time. I remember her words so clearly, and I will share them with you now because someday… there won’t be a paint-encrusted cavewoman there to shove her way into a crowd and pull two boys apart and talk some sense into them. And it will be your turn to be the grown up. So let’s review shall we?
In the words of Miss Bishop, “the more people there are witnessing a crime actively being committed, the less likely people are to do something about it.” She read an article to us about a woman who was brutally stabbed to death in front of countless witnesses, none of whom even attempted to help the victim. Sure, 911 was called multiple times, but by the time “first” responders arrived on the scene, it was too late. She explained how there were plenty of good samaritans who bravely stepped in to rescue people in various situations of need, but typically only when there was nobody else there to help. When people are the sole witness, it triggers a sense of personal responsibility to get involved. She compared those stories to the statistics which prove time and again that the more people there are who could help, the less likely any one individual is to actually help. This proves a sad truth that a call to many is, almost always, a call to none. She went as far as explaining how an entire group of otherwise non-violent individuals can collectively commit heinous acts of violence because there is a mentality of anonymity and brazenness that comes with being a part of a crowd all doing something nightmarish together.
Welcome to the mob Honking Lady.
I remember having a visceral reaction to Miss Bishop’s lesson that day, and making a personal declaration that I would never, ever be Mr. Grown-n-Silent, I would never be a passive observer, I would not silently watch a victim and do nothing. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t go ballistic on the car horn either. This declaration to always go in, to always do something, has become a proverbial load-bearing wall in my life and is one that I refuse to knock down in me. Yes, it’s safer to just drive by. Yes, it’s easier to call the police. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I probably looked crazy. Yes, those toddlers were bigger and stronger than me. But, as God is my witness, if I was ever injured or killed stepping out of a silent, useless mob to do what I know in my soul is the right thing to do… I die with zero regrets.
Okay, maybe one regret - not breaking your car horn first.
Look, I get it, okay? We live in a world that says “if you see something, say something.” And a lot of times, just saying something is the right thing to do. But, there are just as many times where saying something isn’t even close to enough. A lot of times, adults have to actually do something. (And honking at me never counts as doing something, just so we’re clear.) It is no wonder that the crowd of kids standing around weren’t helpful or concerned as their peers were about to decimate one another… Of course they wanted to record it. They are being raised by a mob of silent adults who watch it unfold and do nothing. Honking Lady, you are teaching your children to be irritated and inconvenienced by other people’s suffering. When they encounter an opportunity to help a victim in life, they will honk. Mr. Grown-n-Silent you are teaching your children to simply observe another’s pain, to be entertained by it, heck… to record it for future viewing pleasure.
So, I’m sorry sir. I’m sorry that I said you ought to be ashamed of yourself for behaving no better than the punk kids who were recording the whole fiasco. I’m sorry ma’am, for panic-swatting the hood of your car and chastising you about how sometimes grown ups have to get involved when kids are in trouble. And I’m sorry for calling all those kids punks and telling them to be better than that, to be better than someone who films kids fighting for entertainment… and I am only sorry for that last one because it isn’t their fault.
They learned it from you.
Come on, bra. Do better.