Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?
Don't even get me started on all the ways this day is so emotional for me. I'm so proud of him, but he's just growing too fast.
Anyway, I thought I had everything figured out yesterday when I read it. The quick answer is have I spoken up when I saw something going on that was wrong is yes. A lot.
Maybe it's a combination of fearing I'm being recorded for the television show, What Would You Do. No, seriously, maybe it's because I feel it's my civic duty to help others when they're in trouble. I was raised by a village. My parents, my brother and sister, my grandparents. Every one of them taught me to do unto others as I'd have them do unto me. This is how I try to live my life. When I see someone being mistreated, I put myself in their shows. But I was also taught to be a leader, not a follower. So, even if I'm the only one who's speaking out about injustice, if I feel in my heart it's wrong, I'm going to say something (usually).
As an author, I've learned I have to tame this side of myself a bit. There's so much drama. Initially, I thought I could tackle it all, be the one to stand up for these injustices, but I learned that it's too much of a burden in most cases. From time to time, though, I just can't be quiet.
But I digress. The first instance I thought of was in 2005 at the University of Tennessee vs. University of South Carolina game. We were new parents on our first out of town trip away from Noah. Chad and I are a house divided. He's a UT fan, and I'm a USC fan. Every year we'd been together, UT had beaten us. This year, though, the game was super close. Carolina was finally starting to give them a run for their money. It was looking good for us.
Because we get our tickets from my sister, who is a season ticket holder and devout USC fan, we were in the visitor section at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chad was decked out in his all orange attire, and I was donning my garnet and black.
My husband is the most quiet football fan ever. He analyzes the game, watching intently. He rarely says a word. In fact, I think he just wants to be left alone. He loves being in the crowd, but he hates obnoxious behavior.
Which is funny because I'm the one who gets riled up. I'm the one who talks trash. Of course, every year, I'd tried to talk trash (flirty trash, of course). It always came back to bite me in the butt when we lost. In the end, I didn't feel too bad because his team still won. This kind of became a playful thing with us. He'd be quiet the whole game. I'd talk trash. He'd smirk at me knowing I was digging a fan grave because my team sucked. I'd smile back because I knew it too, but I love the game. The football one and the one we were playing with each other.
But this night was different. It was looking very much like we were going to finally beat UT, and I wasn't prepared for how bittersweet that would be because the pain and agony on my husband's face hurt my heart.
At some point, the obnoxious guy behind us jabbed his finger into my husband's shoulder. My sweet, non-obnoxious, kind, gentle husband. He leaned down (he was a row above us) into Chad's face when he turned around and started yelling all kinds of UT hate at Chad. Chad is the type that isn't going to fight back. He's not going to talk trash like this guy wanted. He just stood there staring at him, like are you done? At some point, Chad turned around and ignored him. That only added fuel to the fire. The guy wanted to pick a fight, and I guess since Chad was the only UT fan in this area, he seemed like an easy target. Or maybe he thought because Chad was so quiet, he would win a verbal throw down.
And I guess he wasn't afraid of loud mouthed, trash talking wives, either.
After so long, I'd had enough. Between Chad's despair over the impending loss and his mouth, I'd had enough. Chad knows me. He whispered something like, "Ignore him. He's probably drunk."
Ignore him? How could I ignore him. He was in MY ear talking trash about MY husband. Reminder. My sweet, lovable, kind, gentle husband.
So, I finally turned around. Was I a bit scared? Eh, maybe a little bit, but I was more afraid for him because if he didn't shut up, I was going to have him kicked out of that huge stadium at the very end of the game right before Carolina won the first game against UT in ages.
I put my hand up, as if to say stop, and I can't remember exactly what I said because it's been ten plus years, but it was something like, "Leave him alone. He's minding his own business watching the game. You should do the same. Isn't that why you're here? To watch the game? Or do you want to fight? If you want to fight, go find someone else because we're here to watch the game. And our team..." I pointed to my shirt. "Is about to win. I'd really love to watch that in peace. So could you please just shut up?" His jaw dropped. He shut up. I smiled, then I turned around, realizing there was a hand tugging me, urging me to chill.
When I was facing the field, Chad grumbled in my ear, "I told you not to say anything. You're going to get us shot."
Of course, this made me kind of chuckle. Okay. By then, maybe I was a bit scared when he put it like that.
Especially when I felt a finger jab my shoulder. I definitely was terrified to turn around. So, I didn't.
Obnoxious fan leaned down into my ear. "I'm really sorry." I turned around at this point, feeling a little safer. He explained he was just excited about the way we were playing ball. He continued to apologize profusely, telling me that wasn't his normal behavior, and that he didn't want any trouble.
That's when I said the line I will remember forever. I pointed to my husband. "You should be telling him this, not me."
So, he jabbed his finger back into Chad's shoulder. My husband, who was thoroughly annoyed at this point, turned around and accepted the guy's apology. They shook hands. And I finally was able to smile.
We won that game. It was bittersweet. I don't tolerate bullying well because I've been bullied. And even though Chad acted like it didn't bother him, how could it not?
There are other instances, like the time when I called the police because a guy left his toddler in the car while he ran into the store. And the toddler didn't have a car seat. I was terrified for that baby, not for me. Doing the right thing was easy when I saw someone doing something wrong.
Do I always do stop people when I see wrong doings? No. Because sometimes I make the decision that my family's safety is paramount. But when I think I can make a difference without putting the ones I love in imminent danger, it is instinctual for me to intervene. Even if I'm scared.