I will never forget when I was in first grade, a girl by the named of Erin Harris slapped me across the face for absolutely no legitimate reason that I can remember. At this time, I was attending a school called Bob Jones Elementary School, which is one of the most conservative Christian schools in the nation. I didn’t say anything about the incident to anyone until I arrived home and plopped down on the kitchen table to factually present the incidents of my peril to my Mother.
“I just hate her Mother and she scares me!” I reiterated as I ended my protest in tears over the excruciating incident that had shaken my inner core.
What I love about my Mother’s advice is that she never questioned the events leading up to the incident (which I am sure I had done something to provoke the girl albeit unintentionally, but I seem to have that affect on certain people).
Rather, my Mother calmly stated, “Sarah, what you fear is what you find. It will consume you so you must learn to love her.”
I nearly choked. “That is not possible!” I defiantly exclaimed, “I will never love her.” (I was a very opinionated child since the time of my birth – my first word was Pinocchio-no-no – if that gives any indication!)
“Love grows overtime, Sarah,” my Mother said calmly. “So for now, you must show her an act of love.”
I pondered in my mind, “Like slapping her back?” I said enthusiastically.
My Mother laughed, “No, Sarah. That would not be love. That would be fear and vengeance.”
“Oh,” I said glumly. “So what is an act of love?”
“We are going to go buy a sticker book, and you are going to give it to her tomorrow at school,” my Mother said.
Now, at this time, sticker books, were the the fad. My parents never freely gave and believed one worked for their own money although my parents were both in the medical field and we were always over-privileged (however, my Mother controlled the finances and was Jewish and I always believed we were poor until I realized objectively living in a four story house with a large pool was not an indicator of such – but we never ordered soft drinks out to eat and my Mother cut coupons like no other!) And it just so happened, that I wanted a sticker book of my own as well.
“So, you will buy Erin and I a sticker book and I must give one to Erin as an act of love?” I said, now trying to seize the opportunity to get a sticker book for myself.
My Mother never missed a beat…ever. “No, Sarah. I will buy a sticker book for Erin and you will give it to her tomorrow. You can do chores and earn your own sticker book later.”
I immediately arose from the kitchen table and sat Indian-style with my arms folded on the ground as I still do to this day exasperatedly stating, “That hardly seems fair! I didn’t do anything wrong, and Erin get’s something for slapping me? No! You don’t reward me for bad behavior!”
“Sarah, you said you fear Erin. The only emotion that conquers fear is love. When you do not understand love, all you can do is demonstrate an act of love and because you want the sticker book, this will conquer that and deliver you peace and freedom from fear.”
You know when you hear something really wise that does register in a part of your brain because you just don’t want to hear it? Yea, that is exactly what I did as I said after a brief moment of deliberation (you had to be quick with Mom!), “On second thought, Mom, I don’t fear Erin at all anymore after our marvelous talk! You are the best!” I said as I casually proceeded to stand from the floor and go to my rather large playroom.
“Sarah,” my Mother said in that tone which meant she knew I was full of shit (and she always knew), “That is not what you are going to do.”
I sighed, looking forward to the day that I was an adult and did not have to succumb to my Mother’s odd theologies.
So, Mom and I got in the car and drove to the store and bought the coolest sticker book ever, and I dutifully the next day delivered it to Erin.
I will never forget the look on Erin’s face when I handed her the stick book. I was still not happy about the arrangement, but try having a Mother who always “knew” – she didn’t need to call or follow-up with me – she always knew the truth albeit the rare occasions (like three) she missed it, but then my dad always knew. I couldn’t win.
And wouldn’t you know, the whole relationship between Erin and I changed. We moved a few years later, but something as small as an act of love had defeated my fear, and Erin and I became friends – not close friends, but friends enough to save she was in my top twenty. I was always popular.
I never forgot this lesson and have used it constantly even in my adult life. I even had the opportunity to duplicate this with my step-daughter. When she was in first grade, a beautiful bi-racial girl was picking on her pretty heavily. My stepdaughter confided to me (although in twenty years, the slap in the face had gotten drastically more violent like hair pulling and punches – oh, American Youth!), so I drove down to her school during a book fair, and bought this girl a book. Wouldn’t you know, the feud between my stepdaughter and such girl ended that day.
Fear is the second most powerful emotion on the planet, and all that takes to conquer it, is love. When you cannot understand love, all you must start with is an an act of love. It will not come naturally, but it will conquer the fear.
Once I was able to tune into the emotional outputs, I recognized the truth in my mother’s statement. It is without doubt that my Mother was correct, what you fear, you will find…if, of course, that is, you really fear it 😉