Three Ways

Terry & TimTimothy Wilken, MD
writes: When we examine the relationship between self and other, we
discover that we can choose actions that result in our being worse off,
actions that result in our being unchanged, or actions that result in
our being better off. We can choose to hurt each other, we can choose
to ignore each other, or we can choose to help each other. It was as a
child on the school playgrounds of rural America in the 1950’s that I
first learned of these three choices first hand. My twin brother and I
were seven years old when our Dad was transferred to a new job and our
family moved to the small community of Palco, Kansas. We arrived there
after the start of the school year, and soon found ourselves threatened
by the established group of boys at our new school. For reasons unclear
to me then, conflict seemed almost constant, and real knock down
battles occurred all too frequently. One of my strongest childhood
memories is of fear and running. A pack of boys are chasing me and my
brother. If they catch us, they will beat us up. I am very tired. We
have been running for nearly thirty minutes. My heart is pounding so
hard I can hear little else. Perspiration fills my eyes making it
difficult to see. A hundred yards ahead my twin brother is running
easier. He is taller and a great runner. The pack cannot catch him.
But, they are getting closer to me. Recess is almost over now, if we
can just hold out until the bell rings, we will escape back into the
safety of the classroom. But our escape will be short-lived. I remember
dreading every recess – every lunch hour. Just like in boxing, at the
sound of the bell we would all come out fighting. At every recess, the
war would resume. While my brother could
often run all noon hour without getting caught, I was smaller and
slower with options more limited. Sooner or later the confrontation
came, and with it would come the hurt: a bloody nose, a torn shirt, a
pair of broken glasses, detention after school, and the risk of a
whipping when you got home for fighting at school. To my seven year old
mind, conflict seemed really stupid. Both sides got hurt. I tried to
give as good as I got. Hurt and be hurt. I realized in that first year
at the new school that there were no real winners in conflict. Even,
when you “won” somehow you lost. It didn’t make any sense to me. I
resolved to learn how not to fight. (12/27/04)