Pin It I went to the local parade yesterday to commemorate July Fourth (which was celebrated on both the 3rd and 5th – chalk it up to living in a community which heavily endorses Sabbath day observance). As I was watching the floats and carriages, fire engines and ambulances, mayors and dairy queens, I came to the realization that I don’t really enjoy parades.
Sure, parades have been around for about 10,000 years—well, according to archeology. In Spain, caves have been discovered with wall paintings depicting parade-type formations to celebrate the hunt.
Parades must have been important. Really.
In fact, I remember that as a kid I’d loved them. I mean, what kid doesn’t? Free candy given away like…well, candy? However, add twenty years or so into the mix and suddenly parades just aren’t as much fun as they once were.
This year I attended the festival of following, and soon noticed a 15 or so year-old young man sitting with his family group just a short distance away. While many people were throwing Snappers into the roadway, this kid was shooting them much the same as somebody would spitwads.
He shot them at the cars. He shot them at the fire trucks. He shot them at the people in the parade. One teenager he hit on the arm cried out in pain and gripped the spot where the firework had hit. The boy in the mass quickly lowered the projectile shooter and feigned innocence as the teenager on the float scanned the crowd. As the teenager looked away, the boy raised his shooter and hit him again.
The teacher inside of me reared up because I’d had enough with this boy’s unchecked disrespect. I walked over to where this young man was sitting and politely informed him that what he was doing was downright rude, and to envision himself in these people’s places. I also let him know that he was well out of line and if he didn’t stop, I’d speak with his parents. The boy wouldn’t look me in the eye but uttered a slew of ‘yes sirs’ while staring at the ground.
I returned to my place and continued to watch the parade.
The boy sat in his chair for a few minutes then retreated back to where his family had been sitting four or five feet behind him. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching me and then, very discreetly, he started shooting Snappers into the parade again. At one point, we made eye contact and he grinned at me and then faded behind the shielding protection of a family member.
I was a fifth grade teacher. If I’d had a student at my school not follow through with instructions from any adult, I’d have done something about it—after all, I was an authority figure. However, here in the midst of parade-goers I was a nobody. After the boy fired a few more shots at a couple of grandparents on a wagon, I stood and walked to where he was sitting. Authority or no authority, something had to be done. I stood in front of this family gathering and asked who this boy’s dad was. It was the man with the stomach sagging well beneath his T shirt. I politely explained what it was his son was doing, (but really, how could he not know because his son was right in front of him?) The man wore a look of surprise on his face.
The father replied, “Look, they’re just Snappers. They don’t hurt anyone.”
“Did you see the teenager on the float that your son hit twice? Did it look like these things felt good to him?”
The man was silent and I plowed on, “In reality, it’s disrespectful what your son’s doing to all of these people; I’d appreciate it if you’d tell him to stop. I’ve got friends in this parade and he’s been shooting at them, too. That really bothers me.”
I was waiting for this man to get upset and tell me that I had no right to tell his son anything, but I was surprised as he said that he’d have his boy stop. I thanked the man and started to return to my place when somebody else in the crowd called out, “You go, guy! Good job!”
As I sat down I thought about this person’s statement telling me that I’d done a good job. In reality, others around had noted the boy’s actions, and it had bothered them, but nobody had done a thing. I guess this comes from living in a society where all too often we don’t feel it’s our place or responsibility so we don’t say anything.
It does, indeed, take an entire community to raise a child.
P.S. I still hate parades…