Generally, I do my best to go through life without harming others. There have been some exceptions however. I've already talked about my time as a juvenile delinquent when I was going around with a friend and letting the air out of tires. We did other things that I haven't talked about yet, but this isn't about those things. This took place a few years earlier when I was in 4th grade (or possibly 5th). And it wasn't random like the tire incident. It was personal. It wasn't my idea; I was just going with the crowd. I seem to be at my stupidest when I'm following others.
By 4th grade I was already set on a loner's path that I would follow all through school. But at the time I still wanted to fit in and be accepted by the popular kids, so from time to time I would do really stupid things to try and impress them.
One day a new student joined our school. He was Japanese and quite friendless. I didn't know anything about him, his culture, or his religion. The first contact I had with him was at recess when he was surrounded by several kids who were taunting him because he "didn't believe in Jesus." They were quite the little thug monkeys and, looking to fit in, I joined them.
As I recall they shoved him around a bit trying to "make him" believe in Jesus. I probably did a bit of shoving myself. I don't really recall. He wouldn't give in and after he picked himself up from the ground for the fourth or fifth time they grew bored and left him alone. I remember looking back at him and seeing him crying. I knew what I had done was wrong, even as I was doing it. I just couldn't help myself and at the end of it all I felt quite ashamed.
Later – an hour or a day, I don't remember – I told him that I was sorry for pushing him around and I asked him if it was true that he really didn't believe in Jesus. He told me that he and his family were buddhists and explained what that meant. I also found out that his father worked for some business that had him move a lot, so he was pretty accustomed to being picked on and he forgave me.
The next time the kids started pushing him around I stood up for him, and we both got pushed around. It was a Hallmark moment, to be sure. After school we went to his house and I met his mom and grandmother. It was my first real introduction to another culture. I had to leave my shoes at the door and everything. I remember that their house was very well decorated and smelled nice. We remained friends until his dad was transferred again.
Next time I feel like shedding some light into my dark corners I'll tell you about when I punched a girl hard in the stomach*, tripped a crippled kid or did a spot of gay bashing.
*I'm not sure. I might have already told this one.