In case you don't have access to Northern Connection magazine, here is my article for this month.
A few weeks ago, you may have seen on the news the story about bus monitor Karen Klein, who was bullied mercilessly by the middle school students in her charge. The lack of empathy and height of cruelty from the teens on the bus was appalling, and it reminded me of something that happened when I was in grade school at St. Athanasius back in the late 1960s.
There was a boy in our class who stuttered. I wasn’t aware of it, but, apparently, some of the other boys had been mocking him. That must have come to Sister’s attention because one afternoon, Sister sent the boy who stuttered to the office on an errand. After he left, Sister said she wanted to have a “little talk” with us. She then proceeded to call down the wrath of God onto the classroom. She chastised us for being so cruel, told us we were failing to live up to our Christian faith, asked us to put ourselves in the stutterer’s shoes and feel what he was feeling.
Worst of all, told us that as the stutterer was a beloved child of God, we were belittling one of God’s own creatures. She also told us that if she ever heard any of us mock the stutterer again, or if any of us breathed a word of her “little talk” with us to the boy in question, we would be in big trouble not only with her, but with our parents and with God. General Sherman would have been proud of Sister; she took no prisoners.
I had never made fun of the stutterer, but if I had any inclination to do so in the future, I dared not. Many people joke about Catholic guilt, but it can sometimes be a good thing! I can’t recall in which grade this happened, either first or second, but I can never forget how bad I felt and empathetic toward my stuttering classmate afterward. It must have made an impression on everyone else as well because until we graduated from eighth grade, I never, ever heard anyone make fun of him again.
The Karen Klein situation brings to light a conundrum: Why should those teens, or anyone else for that matter, be kind to another human being? I can understand not promoting a specific religion in public schools, but when you take God or some moral code like the Ten Commandments out of the equation, what reason is there for being good? Because it feels good? Well, sometimes it feels really good to be bad. When you are angry, it feels much more satisfying to lash out than to hold your tongue. When you want something, it feels much better to satisfy that urge than to do deny yourself. When you don’t like someone, it feels much better to gossip about them or tells lies to make them look bad than to keep quiet. So being nice because it will make you feel good is at best a wishy-washy reason.
For someone who doesn’t adhere to a moral code, the only reason is the Frank Burns reason from the TV series M.A.S.H.: It’s nice to be nice to the nice. That is a flimsy foundation. When you see people lie, cheat, abuse one another and still get ahead, being nice for no reason makes no sense, which explains something that I recently learned.
I’m not here to debate the merits of faith or disparage atheists, and I can understand atheists when they say they don’t believe in God because they have no hard evidence of His existence. But how are parents, administrators and the like to provide a reason to the bullies in the world like those who tormented Karen Klein for being good? When people still want to keep the commandments in schools, can atheists understand that to those of us who have a faith being nice just for the sake of being nice doesn’t make much sense to us either?
Update on St. Anne's Day:
I miss not being in touch with you on a daily basis, but I wanted to let you know the progress on the book. To my delight, I'm getting great feedback.
Also, Tom Pollard of the website www.popularpittsburgh.com, featured the book on the website and has made it available in his eMall. If you haven't visited his site, you should. It has lots of helpful and fun Pittsburgh information on it.
Also, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh kindly posted about me as well on their website http://www.osbpgh.org/main_newsevents.html
The paperback version should be available on Amazon in a day or so. I will keep you posted.