Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rethinking "Sticks and Stones"

Stepping into my own time machine, I remember when my parents and I went to a “Meet the Principals” night at my middle school prior to the beginning of the new school year. The principal and assistant principal spoke in glowing terms about the clubs and activities available at the middle school. I had always been interested in computers and creating basic video games, so when I heard that there was a computer club, I was in my glory! I was excited about starting the new school year, thinking that I would have the opportunity to develop and expand my computer skills.

What I didn’t understand and wasn’t prepared for was the stigma that was attached to people who were into computers in that day and age. When I showed up for the first computer club meeting, I sat down behind a “cuttingedge” TRS-80 computer terminal with a sense of anticipation. While we were all waiting for the club sponsor to arrive, I noticed a group of eighth graders walking by the room, on their way to football practice. One stopped, stuck his head in the door, and then shouted “Computer geeks!” In an instant, my feelings of excitement disappeared, and another thought popped into my head. What if being interested in computers meant that you were not “cool” in this unknown new world?

I have to admit my heart sank a little that day. It was hard to enjoy what we learned that afternoon in computer club, and that ended up being the only meeting I attended. Can you believe it? Just because of what one lousy eighth grader said? I remember laying in bed that night, starring at the ceiling, thinking about other things that I could “get into” that would be “cooler” than computers. Regardless of what the little “sticks and stones” rhyme tries to teach, words really are powerful. Looking at this event some twenty years later, I am able to see it for what it was. But at that moment in my life, I swallowed the lie hook, line, and sinker! It doesn’t take a huge, traumatic event to wound the heart of an adolescent. It can be something seemingly benign. Thus, I became a little more cynical that day and, in the process, let go of something about which I was passionate, out of the fear of rejection and the opinions of others. Cynicism is really just a dysfunctional way of protecting our hearts from disappointment and hurt. It can be absolutely debilitating.


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