We were 10 years old. My reality at that time was life at home and life at school. I hadn't fully grasped the obtuse concept of what having a friend is supposed to mean. It had snowed some days prior and there were small walls of snow piled in my family's back yard. My "around the corner" friend Joey and I were in the yard that day. Mrs. Shannon, an old lady next door, had a big, yellow dog she let run free in her yard. He ran to Joey and me with its tail wagging. I knew the dog could only communicate with its tail, its bark, or its snarl. The tail's wag meant he was happy to see us. "What was he trying to say to us?" I didn't know, but I was tempted to reach over the fence and pet him since he was happy, and unlikely to bite me. "Let's pet the dog," I said. Joey then claimed that he had a better idea. "Let's pretend he's a catcher and throw snow balls at him! Yeah! That should be fun!" I stood there speechless. Not knowing whether to agree, I let Joey be the leader while I remained his follower.
We made snowballs and pelted that dog with dozens of them that afternoon. My mother heard the commotion, leaned out the window and asked what we were doing. When I explained that we were pretending the dog was a catcher, she said "whose idea was this? Who came up with the idea to torture that poor dog with snowballs?" Joey and I both instinctively thrust out an index finger and pointed it at each other. I knew I was innocent. My friend chose to sell me out to save himself from a scolding.
Later that day, my mother calmly explained to me why it was wrong to attack the dog with those snowballs. "All of God's creatures deserve to be treated properly," she said. She went on to tell me the dog was defenseless, unable to tell us if it was being hurt by our aggression. He couldn't tell us to stop. I reacted viscerally to this instruction. I felt the dog's pain and wondered if he was really begging us to stop assaulting him. At that very moment I learned that I had no more right to attack "a fellow creature of God," than another kid had to bully me in a schoolyard. Stones, snowballs and words all hurt. It didn't matter. What probably hurt more was the indifference to the truth that Joey demonstrated. I was always taught that the truth is not optional. It is the cornerstone of our character, and a measure of moral integrity into our adulthood. I never forgot the valuable lesson I learned that day.
I've heard it said many times, in many ways "what is past is prologue." I hope to see Joey again some day and ask him if he recalls the story as I do. Something tells me, though, that his memories will not be as vivid as mine. His, I'm sure, have been replaced with hard work, raising children, and supporting a family. Mine are entrenched and entombed; and remain the blueprint of a life lived.
Greg Sacchet- 4/19/2012
Author Notes: www.gregsacchet.com