Friday, October 29, 2004

An Open Letter To Jimmy

Have you ever done something of which you are not proud? Have you ever done something of which the memory comes back to haunt you every now and then at seemingly random times? I was reading a blog someone wrote about driving by a little black boy waiting for the school bus and wondering what his story was when that memory came back again to haunt me. This time I am writing it down in hopes of healing old wounds.

I was seven years old and had to go to a daycare every afternoon after school until my mom got off from work and could take me home. During the warmer days, we used to spend all our time on the grassy playground running around being kids. We had paper airplane flying contests, played tag and soccer, and just did what kids do best. We played nicely together most of the time but once in awhile, things would turn uglier and switch to the game of teasing 'Jimmy.'

Jimmy was mentally retarded and when he was under stress, he would bite the back of his own hand, at times causing it to bleed. I can remember that ugly sore on the back of his hand that always seemed infected due to the constant reopening of the wound. Teachers always admonished us kids to not tease Jimmy in hopes that the wound would eventually heal but being kids the fascination of someone inflicting pain upon themselves out weighed any moral sense that we might have had.

One afternoon while out on the playground at the daycare center, we decided to go tease Jimmy. We chased after that poor kid calling him names while he ran away biting the back of his hand until it started to bleed. I don't remember how long we did that for but eventually he got tired and we had him cornered between two pieces of playground equipment. He turned around, dropped his hand from his bloody mouth, and grabbed the first kid he could. Jimmy proceeded to tear the shirt off that poor helpless kids and beat him into a bloody pulp as the rest of us stood there horrified. As Jimmy punched the kid over and over, he was sobbing in anguish and that is what really haunts me. Here was a kid who didn't want to be doing what he was doing but had no choice and finally had to stand up for himself in the only way he knew how. An adult finally pulled Jimmy off the hapless kid and led him into the school while the other kid, who didn't have any serious wounds, was led crying into the school for antiseptic and bandages. The rest of us remained on the playground shell shocked and this is where my memory ends.

We never saw Jimmy again but if we had, I don't think anyone would have teased him anymore. I think the incident, from that moment on, gave me a moral lesson that I never have forgotten to this day; don't pick on those you feel are beneath you because one day, they may rise up over you. In later years, I found myself on the other side of the 'being picked on' coin and I now feel it was God's way of balancing out the damage that I may have done to Jimmy with my words. I was called many names which made me teary eyed and wanting to rise up against those doing the picking but I never did. I bore the burden that had been placed upon me and went through life the best I could. All through grade school and junior high, I served my time for that one stupid act so many years ago and I still feel as if I got off light and haven't yet fully served my sentence.

What ever became of Jimmy? I wonder this every time that memory comes back to haunt me. I wish I knew but I don't. I wish I could find him somehow but the daycare center is long gone by now and I don't even know if Jimmy was his name. It is just a name that I felt fit when I wrote a poem about the situation some four years ago. (If I can find it, I'll post it on here later.) All I can say is, "Jimmy, if you are out there, I am truly sorry for what I did and I want you to know that because of you, I learned a powerful lesson that day. If I ever find you someday, I will be at your service until you feel that I have finished my sentence."

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