Once, I bad mouthed a nun and have yet to get over it, clearly indicating the lifelong bad that careless words can do.
I was 13. Sister Clarentine was our teacher and by “our” I refer to 60 of my fellows in her care every week day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our only escape, HER only escape, was recess and the rainy day we couldn’t go outside was the day I did this.
Seeking amusement, I wrote and passed a note to my pal Liz. I wanted to be clever. I wanted to be cool. I was neither. I referred to Sister Clarentine with a word we 8th graders tossed around when we didn’t want each other to know how scared each of us was. It was the equivalent of “nerd.”
Sister Clarentine, who had arthritis, was faster than she looked. She intercepted the note and stuck it somewhere into that vast black habit where pockets reside and left our classroom.
My life, what there was of it, passed before my eyes during the next minutes. When she returned to commence the business of learning, I had already promised the choir of angels my devotion, my future, my bike, everyhing. I was scared numb.
She said a few words to all of us about cruelty as she moved down the aisle toward my desk. Because this preceeded the time when smacking students was a felony, I anticipated much worse than I got. She just handed me my note and walked away.
What I got was much much worse. It was the first time I knew I had hurt somebody.