Friday, November 22, 2013

My Very Cool Week

Something very cool happened to me this week that I’d like to tell you about.
Last week I read a Twitter tweet from the Toronto Star which asked us to tell a short story of a time when we were mean to another person or someone had been mean to us.
The first thing I thought of was my blog entry of November 17, 2012 (It’s been a year already??) in which I wrote about two mean moments in my life.
So I sent a note with a link to the blog and asked them to read it.
I knew that it was too long for what they were looking for but what the heck? It was a way to get someone else to read it anyway.

On Monday afternoon I received an email from a pleasant lady named Sarah at the Toronto Star saying that she really enjoyed my blog post, especially the story of Ephraim and the milk.
She asked if it would be okay with me if they ran a shortened version of the post in the Star if they had space.
I replied thanking her for taking the time to read it and that it was certainly okay for them to use it.

I forgot about it until yesterday morning and realized that if it DID run in the Toronto Star I probably would never know about it since I am out here in New Brunswick.
So I sent Sarah a message asking that if they do mention my story could she please let me know so that I wouldn’t miss it.

I was very surprised when she replied that it was in the paper at that very moment and all I had to do was search my name on the Toronto Star web site to find it.

So I waited for several hours until I had a free moment to take a look.
No way! I didn’t waste a second! I looked immediately and there it was.
I was so impressed at the editing that Sarah had done. It was a very professional job.
Here is the article as it appeared:

True tales of mean: A reader apologizes to a boy he hurt

Reader Tim Scammell says a mean thing he did 40 years ago has bothered him all his life.
Published on Thu Nov 21 2013

We asked readers to tell us the meanest thing they have done to someone and/or the meanest thing done to them. One of our favourite stories in the latter category came from reader Tim Scammell who, after talking to his son about meanness, used the Internet to find someone he had been mean to 40 years before. Here’s an edited version of his apology to his childhood chum.

Dear Ephraim

You and I were in McNicoll Public School together and I have thought about you many times over the years.
Earlier this evening I was talking to one of my 14-year-old twin sons about how mean kids can be to one other. I told T. the story of something I did to you that has stuck in my mind all these years. He told me I should look for you on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google and apologize.
I believe it took place the summer between Grades 3 and 4.
It was a hot sunny day and my friend Andy Heywood and I had gone to play in the schoolyard.
They had cut the grass after a long spell and we were playing around in the huge piles of clippings. We both became hot and thirsty.
I don’t know which one of us thought of it but we knew you lived just across the road. We decided to go to your house and see if you would give us something to drink.
Your mother answered the door and called you. We asked you if you wanted to come out and play. You agreed, but had to put your shoes on.
Before you did that we asked you if we could have a drink.
Most likely my mind exaggerates, but I remember you giving us the biggest, coldest glasses of milk I had ever had.
We finished our drinks and said we’d go outside to wait.
For the life of me I will never understand why we did this but we took off across to the schoolyard and jumped behind a huge pile of grass clippings to hide from you. The bizarre thing is I remember that you and I were friends. We weren’t best friends but pretty good school friends.
Why the heck did we do that to you?
I have a lousy memory, which drives my wife crazy, but I still have the vivid memory of watching you coming out of your front door and looking for us for a minute or two before giving up and going back in your house. I remember the feeling of guilt I had and thinking that we should go back and get you but we didn’t.
That event is one of the biggest regrets from childhood.
When you think of the horrendous terrible things that some kids do to others, I guess this is minor. But I think that at that moment we made a really nice kid who welcomed us into his house and gave us a fantastic glass of milk feel bad.
That was a lousy thing to do.
If this type of thing happened to one of my kids it would break my heart.
So Ephraim, 40 years later I want to say sorry. I wish we had not done that to you.
If this is all a little too weird for you I understand completely. Lol.

Take care,

The next day Ephraim emailed back, and wrote, in part.

Wow, thanks for reaching out. Big thanks to T., too. You must be proud of your boys.
Tim, your name sounds familiar as does Andy Heywood’s. That said, I have no recollection of the event you’ve described. The fact that you have struggled with it for so long — in that way we all hopelessly struggle with regrets, reliving events we can’t change — saddens me. But I get it; we’ve all got some of those.
Your email opened up a flood of childhood memories from Canada.
We moved to South Florida after the completion of Grade 4, during the summer of 1973. I lived there until college, when I moved up to the Northeastern U.S.
I’ve lived up here since.
My memories of early life in Canada are those of a child.
I’ve been to Toronto on business multiple times over the years, but not back to North York or McNicoll Avenue.
I remember those days with such fondness. That said — there’s no denying it — we were odd birds, my family. We moved there in the late 1960s from Israel. There was no one around similar to us. I grew up feeling my foreignness. But man, I loved hockey.
What you said in your email is very meaningful to me. Not because I remember the incident, but more because it helps me access that part of my life.
I appreciate the warm spirit you and your son have shared with me.

All the best,

Pretty well done, isn’t it? The Star certainly seems to know their editing.
So that’s pretty cool that they put my story in their paper.
It appeared in the print version as well as the electronic version of yesterday’s Star.
I have to tell you what’s cooler though.
The comments section! Those people are amazing!
I think I’ve become accustomed to the nastiness that tends to land in the comments sections out here in New Brunswick.
I don’t understand why but far too many of the comments that I see locally are just ignorant and unnecessarily cruel.
I would never have guessed that it would be Toronto that was so nice and encouraging.
There are a couple of references to the recent shenanigans of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Interesting how they found their way in.
I’ll show you what I’m talking about here:

Comments (33)

51 Minutes Ago
Tim is a childhood friend of mine. Our moms emmigrated from England to Canada together as 18 year olds and remained BFFs all their lives. One thing I've always remembered about you, Tim, IS your kindness. You were stuck playing with 4 little non-hockey-playing, girlie girls (your sister, me, my two younger sisters) every family visit, and you were never anything but sweet and involved. You didn't even sullenly ignore us, as some boys would! This lovely story of you and Ephraim proves that. Let's hope TONS of parents share this with their children, and TONS of other adults take your cue, and clean up some mean acts of their pasts. love, Sim.

14 Hours Ago
I was the most shy kid in public school and have horrible memories of being teased and taunted. I moved away from that small town as soon as possible, and to this day, 50 years later, I go visit relatives there and hate every minute of it. I won't even go for lunch in town. Foolish and overly emotional, I know. I've got a great life now, so I should just get over it. I made sure my own kids had the skills not to be treated that way by anyone.

15 Hours Ago
What a special exchange. I think the point here may be that what happened changed Tim and the way he treated people. I have an incident similar to this in my life--with my younger brother--and he has absolutely no memory of it and, if he did according to him, it wouldn't have bothered him. However, it gave my conscience a real jolt and I think altered my perception of other people and how I was responsible for my behavior towards them.

17 Hours Ago
If the meanest thing that guy ever did was drink a glass of milk and then take off without playing with the guy Ephraim then he is practically a saint. No wonder Ephraim had no memory of this minor event but certainly wrote a very gracious note in reply.

studebaker 2
19 Hours Ago
Unfortunately, too many who grew up as bullies have never been made to face up to the fact that their actions too often systematically destroy the lives of others along the way. I only wish that adults who continue to behave as bullies in the workplace, their families, in public in general could somehow be made aware of the negative effects of their of their behaviour and shamed into changing. Usually they are just too thick-skinned to notice so they continue to wreak havoc all the while blaming others for not being tough enough.

19 Hours Ago
I was bullied beyond belief as a child. I lived with my grandparents in a small town and kids teased me relentlessly because I had "no parents". I was also a lot smaller than the other children my age and wore glasses. Recipe for disaster. I made it through mostly unscathed, am a successful professional with a wonderful family, but now and again it pops into my head and I wonder if my bullies are sorry. I totally applaud what Tim did and wish more adults would do the same. It would send an amazing message to the younger generations!

20 Hours Ago
I was mean to a girl in grade school and it stayed with my whole life, especially when my older son became a victim of vicious bullying at Upper Canada College and I felt I was being punished for my deeds. I eventually was able to find her and apologize for everything. She was at a reunion event and was with her lovely, beautiful daughter as I poured out my heart. Well, she had done very well in life - married a great guy, got a nursing degree and had wonderful children. While I still feel sick over my behaviour, the only bright spot is that the girl I chose to pick on had an indomitable character and was not traumatized to the level I would have been in the same circumstances. Congrats Tim. And thanks Ephraim for being such a great guy!

Tim Scammell
21 Hours Ago
I'll tell you what's amazing is the wonderful comments that are being posted here. I'm humbled. In case anyone is wondering, Ephraim and I have stayed in touch and are new "old" friends. :)
Tim Scammell

21 Hours Ago
It is truly amazing the memories that are carried as burdens by many people. Something as insignificant as pulling a prank on another becomes a heavy load. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 and a friend of mine and I went and played 'nicky, nicky nine doors' on some of the neighbouring houses. We were so gleeful when I or he would knock and then quickly run behind a hedge or a car and watch the door being opened etc. What I remember most however was the last time we pulled this prank my friend stumbled over the curb and broke his ankle. He pulled himself behind a hedge and neither of us was 'discovered'. I went to summon his dad to come help. So much for childhood 'pranks'. We both 'grew up' quickly after that episode.

21 Hours Ago
Wow. I went to that school also. I can almost picture exactly where they were hiding.

21 Hours Ago
The meanest thing done to me: In the 70's, we often looped wet Speedo bathing suits onto our locks on the outside of our lockers to air dry. Someone scratched the word "SLUT" in large letters on my locker and stuck/mashed chewing gum into the crotch of my bathing suit. This still haunts me today.

21 Hours Ago
Ellie's column today is of the opposite type of person - a consciencousless, remorseless, shameless sister-in-law who relentlessly torments others. Here, we have a grown man who regrets a childhood action and reaches out to make amends, then, Ephraim reaches out and soothes everything over by saying 'no harm done but thanks for the apology'. Such a touching and timeless story about perspective, childhood impulsiveness, and regret over certain actions that seem to never leave our hearts and souls. I am truly touched by both Tim and Ephraim as this story makes me feel hopeful for the human race. Another reader embraced the essence of it, calling it a 'lesson in empathy' - just what the world needs now.

22 Hours Ago
What a lovely response from Ephraim and I'm glad Tim got to clear his conscience. Win-win.

22 Hours Ago
This is a great lesson in empathy. Tim did something that hurt someone else and never made amends for it. He knows it hurt and he knows how it would feel if something like that happened to his kids. This is a really important lesson for people of any age. So what have we learned? One, don't hurt people - no brainer. But if you do hurt someone, apologize and MEAN IT. You don't say sorry to get people off your back, you say sorry because you realize you've done something you shouldn't and you actually feel bad about it. You don't have to carry it for 40 years like Tim, but if it's not really affecting you then your apology is worthless.

22 Hours Ago
Goes to show you that a lot of kids carry around guilt about things and there isn't much basis for it. I hope Ephraim's reply made him feel better.

23 Hours Ago
read this in the paper this morning and had to come online and comment. what a beautiful example of GRACE. i had tears in my eyes from this story. i will be thinking about this all day. thank you for printing it!

23 Hours Ago
This read was a wonderful change from all the Rob Ford and Senate Scandal nonsense!

23 Hours Ago
I agree. This is a wonderful change from all the Rob Ford garbage. I find it interesting how the article had to come from one of the readers. However, kudos for finding and publishing this letter.

21 Hours Ago
Why does Rob Ford have to bleed into every single thing???

21 Hours Ago
@arpeggio5757: Thats the point I was trying to make...however I realize the irony in that I had to bring him up to make that point.

Tim, it says wonderful things about you, that you have felt guilty all these years. I pity those who don't have the depth of emotion to ever experience this kind of guilt. It shows that you are a decent person, and are bringing up your sons to be decent people too. Thanks for sharing this and for being one of the good people in the world.

Fred Garvin
Everything about this is lovely. Thanks to all parties involved for sharing - I suspect it means as much to us readers - albeit in a different way - as it does to you both.

Nancy Van Kessel
What a concept. Apologizing and asking for forgiveness. And then, being forgiven.

23 Hours Ago
I see where you're going with that, but don't even try to equate the situations.

23 Hours Ago
Nancy are not to be beleived. Why drag your undying support of a lying ,abusive un-couthed buffoon into this completly unrelated commentary .

Nancy Van Kessel
22 Hours Ago
Um... um .... ?????...more

22 Hours Ago
Hmmm......apologizing for a childhood discretion versus apologizing for smoking crack and being blind drunk while mayor of largest city in Canada. Which do you really think deserves forgiveness. Really.

20 Hours Ago

What a nice exchange! It's communication like this that gives hope to society in general!

This is such a nice example of a proper apology and gracious response... If only our politicians could exhibit the same level of maturity and grace.

kitchen table
Well done on all sides. And thanks Toronto Star for offering a place where not only the meanest among us feel at home as is often the case in the comment sections, but there is a place for reflection and hope.

Wow...Ephraim...great response! You certainly know how to graciously and eloquently accept an apology. Well done.

20 Hours Ago
Well said!

Very cool, aren’t they? Absolutely wonderful.
I sent a note to Ephraim directing him to the article and he was also very happy with the way everything had turned out.

For some reason, throughout this whole thing with the original blog post and recent happenings, my other son B has missed it.
That’s perfectly fine. I don’t often tell the boys about my blog posts or expect them to stay up to date with what I write.
If I have something that I think will interest them I’ll tell them but if they don’t read it I’m okay with that.
T was aware of everything. It was our original conversation which started all of this anyway.

As we were driving yesterday I was telling them about the Star article.
B had no idea what I was talking about so when he got home he ventured off to read a copy of the article which I had printed off.
A while later he came back and told me that he really liked it.

A few hours later B came to me again and said “I’m really proud of you for what you did there, Dad.”
And THAT, was the absolutely coolest thing that happened to me this week.

Stay well,

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