Donna Theodore has started writing with me for only about 5 weeks. She is currently enrolled in the Women’s Legacies series and I wanted to share a beautiful piece she wrote last week. Enjoy!!
IT’S ABOUT COMMUNICATION!
“That’s the worst penmanship I have ever seen,” cried out my second grade teacher Mrs. Hanifen, as she stood over me. I was sitting at my desk just trying to do the best I could.
Mrs. Hanifen just didn’t like me; I don’t know why she didn’t like me, she just didn’t. Some people just don’t like you and some people you just don’t like, and you and they may not even know why.
Mrs. Hanifen announced one day that we were going to do a class play for Christmas and asked who would like to be in it. I waved my hand madly but she didn’t pick me. I was very disappointed.
The day of the play came and one of the girls didn’t show up for school that morning. Mrs. Hanifen sent me home to change my clothes so that I could take her place.
We lived five minutes from the grammar school, classes kindergarten through eighth grade. I ran home so exited, running into my mother’s arms shouting “Mama, mama, I get to be in the play!”
As we were standing in the kitchen, me with my arms wrapped around my mother’s skirt, there was a knock at the back screen door and my mother answered “Who is it?”
A voice replied, “Oh Mrs. Theodore, so-and-so showed up late, but she’s here now and she is going to be in the play.” I was devastated. I stood there crying in my mothers arms. She was angry as hell but there was nothing she could do but try to comfort me.
My mom was my best friend and the person I felt the safest around. If my feelings were hurt I believe she felt the hurt more deeply than even I did.
I experienced that kind of hurt for someone else through my brother Joe. He is seven years younger than I am, and when someone tried to hurt him or pick on him I remember how much it hurt me. I believe to this day I didn’t have children of my own because I didn’t want to have to experience more of that kind of pain.
In the fourth grade Mrs. Alexander was my teacher and she liked me. I don’t know why she liked me but she did, and I liked her too. She was always kind to me.
In the fifth grade I remember hanging out with my then best friend Joannie. One day we stayed after school and were erasing the black boards with the help of a cute boy named Cliff. I remember feeling that Cliff liked Joannie more than he liked me. That made me feel left out and a little more timid and shy than I already was. I think he moved or something because that’s all I remember about him.
However, all of a sudden my best friend Joannie didn’t like me anymore. I don’t know why she didn’t like me anymore, she just didn’t … and for the rest of our school years all the way through high school, she tried to make my life as miserable as she could.
She was always trying to pick physical fights with me. I was hurt and confused, and to this day I still don’t know why she turned on me.
In the sixth grade I remember getting an A on my history test. I can’t remember the name of my teacher but he was very tall and he liked me. I don’t know why he liked me but he did.
I was so thrilled, and couldn’t wait to show my test with the big A on it to my Dad. Here’s what I got, and I’m quoting his very words: “That is the worst penmanship I have ever seen.”
Once again I was devastated – and that’s the last time I remember ever getting an A in school.
By the seventh grade I really didn’t care anymore if people liked me or not. I had found a place where people seemed to like me most of the time.
I was singing and dancing all the time by now, having taken dancing lessons since I was four or five years old. Now I was performing shows with a troupe of young entertainers wherever and whenever an organization wanted amateur entertainment – which at the time translated to “free.”
We entertained from Pleasanton, CA. all the way to San Francisco, working USO shows, Eagles clubs, Moose clubs, Shriners clubs – any one who had a club and needed entertainment.
I found that whenever I sang people liked me. I don’t know why they liked me but they did.
As I was still in grammar school, I had to deal with school classes and therefore school kids, but I started going within myself more, and only came out when I was performing to express myself.
Where I grew up in Pleasanton, CA., Mexicans were the minority. There really was only a small group of them. I think they were all one family, but they didn’t like me – but at least I knew why.
They were a very good-looking family. The name of the gang’s boss was Joe. Both my father and oldest brother’s names, by the way, are Joe. This Joe Domingus had a crush on me, but I couldn’t have anything to do with him or my father would have killed me. Quote by my father: “What are these Mexicans doing hanging around here!” Once is all my Dad had to say anything.
I even sort of liked Joe Domingus but there was no way anything could go forward. The gang had no idea it was my father and not me who didn’t like them, but what could I say?
They would surround me after class and threaten to beat me up. They never did, but I used to spend far too much time in class trying to figure out ways to outsmart them or scare them out of scaring me.
In the end, I don’t know why my dad didn’t like them, but he didn’t. He probably didn’t really know, either.
It was a good thing that I discovered at this point not to care if people liked you or not. Good for me and good for them in the long run, because as I began to venture out further into world I started to notice that most people had their dislikes. Like this, but don’t like that, and most of the time I realized they really had no idea why.
Like the song says (from the musical “South Pacific”), you’ve got to be taught.
“You’ve got to be taught before it’s to late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
What I believe is we’ve all been missing the boat. What people really need to be taught is to think for themselves, but that is hard to learn. Most of us react out of the beliefs we’ve been taught by others; we have been programmed into their limited beliefs and experiences.
But it would help us to think for ourselves – to rethink everything we think, we believe, and have been taught – which will open us up to feel more than think.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am as guilty as the next guy. I can meet someone for the very first time and draw an immediate conclusion that I like or don’t like them – and I know nothing about them!
I took a seminar once that made us truly look at and experience the people in the room. I remember there was a girl in the class and I just didn’t like her. I don’t know why I didn’t like her, I just didn’t. And isn’t it fascinating that out of all the people in the room, we were thrown together to do an exercise.
I realized then that everybody has a story, and after I heard hers and had a little insight into her being, I liked her very much. It’s called communication versus judgment.
After the exercise the group leader made this comment: “If you put two people alone together in a room for a good length of time, chances are pretty good you will end up liking each other. I see it happen all the time in myself.
It was tough growing up and feeling that you’re not accepted just because you’re you! In the words of Dr. Rev. Terry Cole Whittaker: “What you think of me is none of my business.”
I believe that’s a very good motto to live by; but the key word here is “Think.” What you think or believe about me is none of my business; but what you care to know may make a huge difference in the way we care for one another in this world.