This isn’t some philosophical post with lots of meaning behind it. It’s literally a dream I was having before I just woke up and I wanted to capture it before it faded away.
In the dream, I was in my local grocery store and I was at one of those scanner stations where you can pick up a handheld device to scan in groceries on your own as you walk around. There were these little kids running around me, boys and girls, and I thought they looked Korean, but I wasn’t paying close attention.
One little girl came up to me on my right and pulled on my arm to get my attention and then pointed at a smaller girl to my left who was tussling with a boy of her same height. The smaller girl looked like she was crying or just had cried or was about to cry and she had a red indentation in the top left part of her lip. Is that a cleft lip? It looked like a disfiguration, but it looked like it had been there for a long time.
The girl pulling on my arm said, “She thinks she looks pretty! Isn’t that stupid? She doesn’t look pretty at all!”
And then the girl with the notable lip did cry and ran between me and the scanners stall and past the girl on my arm and off to somewhere I lost track.
Then the girl on my right arm was somehow on my left; I don’t know, it was a dream. She smiled and tried to shake my hand as if we had accomplished something great by making the smaller child cry.
I said, “No!” and maybe I seemed scary then, because the elbow puller looked frightened and tried to run away from me. But she ended up against the wall, next to those red metal candy and toy vending machines. I stalked after her but stayed just a little more than arms’ length away when she was wedged in place.
I glanced around and the crying little girl was now in a small group of children of various sizes watching me confront the elbow-pulling girl. They all looked similarly Korean and it occurred to me that perhaps this was just one big family.
The crying girl had stopped sobbing and was now smiling and said in my direction, “Thank you!”
But I guess I wasn’t done. I turned to little miss elbow and said, “She is pretty. More importantly, she should think of herself as pretty.”
The scared little girl looked a little less scared and made a sad face instead. She cried out, “I’m sorry, Hannah-Louisa!”
And then I smiled, moved closer to the little bully, and asked, “Is that your sister?”
Then I extended my hand for the handshake she’d wanted before and said, “My name is Paul.”
She took my hand and shook it with that grave attitude children can muster so readily and said, “I’m Melissa.”
After we shook hands, I took a deep breath as I thought for a second and then I said this:
“Bullies do easy things that make the world worse for other people. Heroes do hard things that make the world better for other people. Somebody will probably bully you in your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. But you can choose what you are! Wouldn’t you rather be a hero, Melissa?”
And little Melissa, who’d been so happy to make her sister cry a moment before, looked down at her shoes for a second. She must have taken that second to set a look of pride and determination in her tiny little face as she raised it back up to look at me and nod. And smile.
And then I woke up and wrote this post. Apparently, I dream in tiny-scale hero movies now. It figures.