Shane Patiently Waited His Turn.
During Carnival at camp, Shane had just enough tickets to play “Dunk the Counselor.” In this typical carnival game, kids were given three balls to throw at a target, which would – if they hit it – knock the counselor into a pool of water.
Shane could hardly wait to play. But when he was only a few spaces from the front, Evan showed up, and cut in line. He stood two spaces in front of Shane, who had been waiting ten minutes for his turn already. Evan made some kind of “deal” with the kid in front of Shane, so he could get a turn to dunk the counselor, too. Evan just didn’t want to wait like all the other kids.
According to Shane’s description, Evan is nearly a foot taller than the rest of the kids. He was well-liked and people wanted to do whatever Evan wanted them to do. So Shane stood, silently seething, while Evan took his turn before Shane.
But Evan didn’t just take his turn. Evan made a huge production of throwing each ball – and all three balls missed completely. Then, since he didn’t dunk the counselor, Evan ran up to the target and started shaking it with all his might, trying to knock the counselor into the pool. The counselor held on for dear life, not allowing himself to be dunked, while Evan broke every rule and kept shaking the target.
Meanwhile, Shane patiently waited his turn.
Finally, Evan gave up and darted off. The counselor gave Shane the nod. And Shane, finally able to take his turn after nearly 20 minutes, lifted his arm to throw.
“ATTENTION CAMPERS!” the announcement boomed, just at that moment. “CARNIVAL IS NOW OVER! ALL CAMPERS RETURN TO YOUR STATIONS!”
Shane never got a chance to throw a ball.
Two days after Shane told me this story, I asked him to write a letter to Evan. I was concerned that Shane was burying his anger about this all-too-common situation, and I wanted Shane to be ready to speak up next time something like this happened.
So Shane wrote the letter. And I went over it with him.
I circled Shane’s powerful words: “What you did wasn’t right.” I pointed out that Shane could, next time, say that out loud. He could work with the other kids behind him in line, and stand up to Evan – tall as he was – so that the kids who were doing the right thing would be allowed a fair chance. I told Shane that he should deal with his anger when it came up, rather than shoving it all down and not saying anything.
Shane listened politely. Then he said, “I did deal with my anger. I was really mad for like two hours. And then when I was going to bed, I thought about it a lot. And then I wasn’t angry anymore. I even got to be kinda friends with Evan after that.”
It was my turn to listen. Shane had handled his anger like … well, better than most of the adults I know. He was angry. He stayed angry for a while. Then he thought about it, and made a conscious decision to go forward with his life in spite of what had happened, to not hold a grudge.
Shane handled the entire situation better than I would have.