The following experience is perhaps the most frightening and awful experience of my entire life. I kept it to myself and from my family for years, and I thought I would take it to my grave. Then I read some research on family history and our life stories and learned the value of sharing our negative stories along with the positive. That is why I have decided to share this experience.
Richard, Karl, Jerry, and I had been friends for a long time, and at the time of this event we were Juniors at South High School. None of us were scholars or even particularly good students, but this night we were studying at the Salt Lake City Library.
When we finished our studies, we left feeling pretty good about ourselves and what we had accomplished. I was the one who drove, and I had parked across the street from the library, in front of the Salt Lake City and County Building. The library was next to the police station and the city jail.
We were all good kids and not prone to trouble, but that night trouble found us and the way we handled it (particularly me) is the focus of my story.
As we left the library, we met Mark (also a student at our high school) and some of his friends who had a grudge against Richard. They approached us and started harassing Richard. It escalated into pushing and shoving, and punches were thrown. This coward thought he was tough, and he was as long as he was surrounded by his three friends. Richard was the biggest and most athletic of the four of us, and he knew how to fight and take care of himself in a fair fight, one on one.
Today we know the teenage brain is not fully developed and will not be fully developed until about 25 years of age. Unfortunately, my underdeveloped brain made a stupid, panicked, teenage decision, which I have regretted ever since.
My thought process was to get to my car quickly and drive close to Richard so, if the police came, he could hop in and we could get out of there without getting caught. With an adult mind that has matured at least a little since that night, I recognize the crazy ridiculousness of this decision and how it turned into a very dangerous and life-threatening situation. Why would I want to run from the police? We had done nothing wrong except try to defend Richard.
As I ran across the street to get my car, Karl and Jerry saw me and, not knowing what I was doing, came with me. We abandoned Richard and left him to fight the four bullies who ganged up on him. When I saw what was happening, anger such as I had never known welled up within me. I got to the car, hopped in, and drove to help Richard. I wasn’t thinking straight and all I could think about was running over the guy who started this whole thing (can you understand why I didn't want to tell my family?).
Before I got to Richard, this coward ran to his car and pulled out a rifle and aimed it straight at my head. I stopped about 10 or 15 feet from him, and Richard climbed in the car. I vividly remember the feelings and thoughts running through my mind. I wanted to step on the gas pedal, but I knew that if I did, I would be dead. I had three good friends in the car with me who were afraid for me and in a kind, gentle way helped me calm down and leave the situation. To this day I am so grateful for those friends, and I am still ashamed that I let my anger get so out of control.
There are three important concepts I want to stress with this story: 1) teenage brains are not fully developed and their decision-making skills and abilities are limited; 2) even though I had wonderful parents who did their best to teach me correct principles, I still got myself into a dangerous situation and, fortunately for me, I had good friends who helped me out; and 3) we need to share our negative stories with our children so they know and understand that their parents have never been perfect, had challenges, struggled, even made stupid choices, and they survived and learned from their mistakes.
Today, so many of us, young and old, are under incredible stress, tempers flare easily, and even adults struggle to make calm, wise choices.
Let’s remember that our teenagers still have a lot of mental and emotional growing up to do.
Let’s do what we can to set a good example and help them along their journey to responsible adulthood.
Let’s help them learn how to make good, solid, informed decisions, learn from their mistakes along the way, and encourage them to develop friendships with kids who are grounded in strong values too.
Here’s to (humbly) Failing Forward Together,
Calvert and Anne
Share This Article: