As a kid growing up I had the pleasure of walking to school. This isn’t one of those "I walked 15 miles uphill both ways" type of stories, but truthfully it was about a mile for me to walk to school. For the most part, I have happy and uneventful memories of walking to school. A lot of games, mischief, throwing things into the St. Joseph River and avoiding the supposed bullies. I doubt anyone was ever bullied seriously, but we all feared it and kept our heads on swivels looking for them.
One day, I went to school when I probably shouldn’t have. My mom was a real stickler for going to school no matter what. In all reality, being a single mother and having a sick kid often meant that she would have to take a day off. That kind of thing was not appreciated by her employer, so we were basically forced to go to school unless we were deathly ill. All day long I had made it through school, head pounding and snotty nose, all with the hopes that I’d be able to uneventfully go home and sleep.
Well, during the day we collected quite a bit of snow. For northern Indiana that isn’t all that unusual for the time of year. When this happens and they need to clear the streets quickly, the street department would often stack the snow up to huge piles on side streets and sometime later they’d come back and load the snow into dump trucks to be taken somewhere else. As a kid, you loved to see these "mountains" of snow… Especially on the way home from school.
But today, this was not a welcome sight. Between the joy of everyone else and the cold that was clamping me down, I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. When we reached the big mountain of snow on the corner of Madison and Michigan, all of my friends quickly scurried to the top to play king of the hill and throw chunks of snow at each other. My main interest was to get home, so I started to bypass the malay and cross the street. Just as the crossing guard allowed us all to cross the road I felt a huge chunk of slushy snow land on top of my head. I looked back and heard my old buddy Steve giggling away and high fiving Corey, another walking mate. I yelled at him, "I don’t feel good, leave me alone!" And started pouting across the street and walking even faster. The truth is, I was embarrassed that I had gotten thumped so good when I wasn’t paying attention. That embarrassment welled up with the frustration of the day and a seed of anger overcame me. Combine that with not feeling well and I did what any 4th grade boy would do… I started to cry.
I got about a half a block before Steve and Corey caught up to me. Corey said, "Hey, what’s the matter?" And I shrugged him off and kept walking. Steve said "Come on, I was only messing around!" As soon as he touched me I turned toward him and let him have it. Wham! I blasted him right to the eye and he fell down. It wasn’t much of a fight since he didn’t know one was coming. On top of that, since I hit him so suddenly and knocked him over, I was on top of him before he could really do anything about it. I’m sure that there were blows thrown on both sides but in my mind I only remember the horror of hitting my friend in the face with my thick winter gloves still in place.
Aboiut this time, Corey starts jumping around like a hyena and shouting, "Adam! Adam, it’s Steve’s dad! Adam!" That was the end of the fight. As soon as Steve’s dad was on the scene, we all kind of scattered out of shame. Steve and Corey got to ride home in Steve’s car, and I got to walk the rest of the way home all by myself. All night long I was at home dreading what would happen when my mom found out. I figured I was going to get in big trouble and it was only a matter of time before Steve’s parents called and talked to my mom… who would certainly smite me for life! So, each time the phone rang that night I wondered if that would be the call I had dreaded. It never happened. They never called.
The next day, it seemed like everyone knew what had happened. By the time I got to school a bunch of people had told me that I was going to get in trouble and that Steve’s dad would beat me up. I never got in trouble, nor did Steve’s dad beat me up as promised. But I was scared.
Towards the end of the day as I was at my locker, Steve walked up to me. It was one of those moments you see on a TV show. As he walked up to me the whole hallway got quiet. No one knew if there was going to be another fight or if something else was going to happen. My heart was about to leap right out from my shirt! He looked at me and said, "Umm… Adam, my dad wants to know if you’d like to go see Rocky IV with us this weekend?" I just looked at him, not really understanding what he had said. I said "Um, OK." Then Steve told me that his dad would call my mom later that day to arrange everything.
This was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I don’t think that Steve’s family had ever really been nice to me before. Sure they had invited me insie like all the rest of the neighborhood kids, but this was something completely unexpected. I didn’t understand why they wanted their son to be around the kid who had given him a tremendous shiner. But I do remember this as being a huge lesson in forgiveness and grace. I deserved to be treated like a villain by that family, but instead they reached out to me and invited me in.