Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Remembering Ridge Park Drive

When I was seven years old, I broke my arm from a fall I took while roller skating down the street. I sat in front of Karen Riehl's house, my head buried in my arms, crying. Even at that age, I hated for people to see me cry. Brian Harris came out of his house across the street and kept saying, "Don't cry, Karen. I'll play with you." I understood that Brian meant to be kind, but I also understood that he had mistaken me for Karen Riehl -- a spoiled, bossy girl whom many of us did try to avoid playing with if we could help it. After enduring half a dozen such charitable offers in silence, I raised my tear-stained face and shouted, "I'm NOT Karen!!"

I've always been sort of haunted by that moment, partly because I had a "standing on the Radley's porch" epiphany about what it was like to be Karen Riehl, and partly because I had coldly rebuffed a kindness -- and the fact that it was not meant specifically for me didn't seem to matter much.

I'm haunted also because I do know what happened to Brian Harris, who about a decade later was murdered, along with his girlfriend Michelle Boyd, by three gang members.

I'm pretty certain that my rejection of Brian's charity was not something that deeply wounded or impressed him, but I've never forgotten it -- probably because my memory of it is colored by my knowledge of Brian's fate. When I have thought in recent years about my caustic dismissal of Brian Harris's kindness, I have remembered C. S. Lewis's admonition: "You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

I'm sure I'll remember my treatment of Brian Harris until the day I die -- and beyond, if C. S. Lewis and the rest of us believers are correct. The capacity of our actions toward other human beings to reverberate eternally is a rather awful thing to consider.

But it's the only thing to consider, when you think about it.


Blogger Wonderdog said...

KM, I remember Brian and Valerie Harris well. I also remember the infamous Karen Riehl and her obnoxious mother. ("Here I come Miss Pee Poop!) Do you remember Kenny Reichling's famous salvo?

At any rate, your post about Brian reminded me of this excerpt from Joyce's Dubliners:

"My voice had an accent of forced bravery in it, and I was ashamed of my paltry stratagem. I had to call the name again before Mahony saw me and hallooed in answer. How my heart beat as he came running across the field to me! He ran as if to bring me aid. And I was penitent, for in my heart I had always despised him a little."

August 18, 2006 12:11 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Nicely put, both of you; I really enjoyed both of these entries.

August 18, 2006 1:33 PM  

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