Sunday, September 20, 2009

Say Something Good About Margaret

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.  ~Edmund Hillary

Bob Greene wrote a thought-provoking commentary, America on a Collision Course, on

In the article he wrote,
At the height of the Barack Obama-John McCain race last fall, I decided to conduct an experiment as I traveled around the nation.

As I met people, I would ask them which candidate they were for. Then I would request of them:

"Say something good about the other guy."

At first they would think it was a trick question. But that wasn't the intention.

After collecting the remarks, he stated:
People seemed to welcome this exercise -- the refreshing challenge of acknowledging admirable qualities in the politician they disagreed with.

Somehow, it feels that a similar experiment would be doomed to failure now. Even though many citizens tell pollsters that they favor moderation, the needle of public acrimony seems permanently stuck in the red zone. 

The article pushed me into thinking about saying something good about people other than politicians we might not agree with.

When I was in elementary school, there was a classic, school yard bully, Margaret, who was intent on making my life miserable.  We were both plain, skinny, and poor.  She often wore dirty clothes, was not a good student, and didn't have many friends.  She tormented me verbally and physically.  I didn't run from her, unless I hurled the first insult, and sometimes I won the fight.  

Everyday I had to check my back and get ready to fight or run.  Most days I could make it home before she had a chance to taunt me.  Once I arrived home, I was safe, until the next day. And then, it would start all over again. She died when we were in seventh grade and I went to the funeral home to make sure she was dead. 

She was the first person to pop into my mind after I read Greene's column.  I started thinking, "What could I say that was good about Margaret?"  What might have happened, if instead of fighting her, I had befriended her?  Why didn't I offer to help her with her school work?  Was she sick?  Is that why she died early?

Well, she was definitly tenacious.   She never let up.
She was a good fighter.  She beat me more than I beat her.
She was a good teacher.  She taught me how to fight.  I still don't run from a fight.
She was memorable.  I still remember and think about her more than any other classmate from elementary school.

What good can you say about somebody with whom you've had disagreements?

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.  ~William Blake


  1. This is such a good, thought-provoking post. I just read it and my head is swirling, so I'll probably have to come back and comment again, or write a post of my own.
    Thank you. This is great.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post!

    This is an excellent post, and like the comment before me said, it really made me think. I'm thinking about Margaret now, and I never even met her.

    There are many people I could use this on...I might make a post on my own about it. Great post.

  3. Very good post. I have really enjoyed reading this blog and looking at your paintings from your other blog. I usually like just about everybody...except some politicians and one of my ex-boyfriends! Maybe I'll try to think of good things about him...if I can.

  4. I have a similar story. A boy teased me relentlessly during my 8th grade year. The teasing culminated in a food fight in the school cafeteria. Some years later after spending much time despising John we met again through work. Unbeknownst to me he told my co-workers I was one of the smartest people he had ever met. I was in awe. Here I had spent years hating someone who had admired me. So John if you're out there reading this post I want you to know - you are great comedian, I'm wiser having known you, and you too are a smart person! ~ Rosalyn