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I still mumble “Goliath” as an insult. I rooted for Daniel as a kid because I was an underdog and underdogs are supposed to root for underdogs. If only everyone rooted for them. Too often in real life—certainly not just literature—the 'good guy' is small, weak, and mute. (Not every cop is willing to buy a starving shoplifter groceries.)
In elementary school, I knew a girl named Laurie Ann. Laurie Ann had Down Syndrome. Laurie Ann also appeared to wear nearly the same clothes every single day. Her stringy hair hung short and her glasses gave her the look of a praying mantis. Unlike Wet Seal model Karrie Brown, none of the other children seemed to think her beautiful. They threw pebbles, leaves, and balled-up notebook paper at her during recess. The one time I spotted Laurie Ann's mother, it was during a dreadful hallway scene where the woman was yelling at her daughter at full volume.
Now, even as a child, I was no saint, but I empathized with Laurie Ann because I knew a fraction of her suffering. The other children teased me, too–albeit more subtly. My mother was an immigrant and, though I was mostly Americanized, I still occasionally betrayed my greenhorn ways in how I dressed, the food I ate, and some of the expressions I used. Plus, I was big.
Yet it pissed me off more when classmates bullied Laurie Ann than when they bullied me. I could take it. Most of the time, my friends defended me and teachers adored me. I had a family that loved me. I did well in school and was honored for my achievements. So every so often, I would eat lunch with Laurie Ann. She had a table by herself since none of the other children dared sit with her. That made me the brave soul. Even my friends turned on me those days. I ignored them. Then I would open Laurie Ann's chocolate milk carton for her and tell her stories since she didn't often respond to questions. Once in a while, she would try to tell me a story and I would follow along the best I could. We communicated differently, but that didn't bother me. If she wanted to talk, I listened.
When lunch ended, I'd wave good-bye to Laurie Ann and get in line with my class and she'd wander over to hers. She'd always walk away smiling. It was a simple gesture to sit with Laurie Ann a few times a month, even if it meant being temporarily shunned by the other children. Laurie Ann wanted and needed company. It was my duty to give what I could.
All of us witness injustice every single day. Sometimes we are aware of it and sometimes we aren't. Sometimes we just want to sit and gorge and watch “Parks and Recreation.” Sometimes every particle of our being wants to fight. Both of these things are fine, as long as the proportion of one to the other makes sense for the particular individual. I'd rather be intense than passive if I had to choose between the two, but I also know it's important to zone out and chill on the sofa once in a while. You don't have to wage an entire war; pick one battle, maybe two. Just remember: In a world full of assholes, committing genuine acts of kindness is just about the most punk thing you can do.