The Right Time to Do the Right Thing

I am a native of Lakeville, a small community ten miles south of South Bend. My world always seemed calm and quiet despite living with mom, dad, four siblings, and grandma in a three-bedroom house. In that environment we all learned to accommodate each other and person’s needs.

When a family with more children and less income moved into the one-bedroom house next door, I learned what it meant to live under stress and take your frustrations out on others. My dad worked long hours and often mom fed us kids before he got home for dinner. The youngest children from next door would often come to our door and with their hands cupped around their eyes, peer into to the kitchen to watch my dad eat. His standard response was to push his plate back, wave the kids into the house and let them have anything left over from from the meal. These kids were often mean to one another and physically aggressive with each other, other kids and animals.

One evening I was in the back yard with my  dad when the father next door dragged one of the boys outside, pulled off his belt, and began beating the kid all the while yelling and swearing. He was a man who would brag about his activities in the war fighting the Japanese and tell us kids the most gruesome stories. On this occasion he took out his anger and aggression on his own son. Within a minute or less, my dad strode across the lawns and grabbed the man’s arm to stop the blows to his defenseless son. (I always wondered how my dad knew he could intervene without the man turning his aggression on him.) The other dad did not resist my dad’s intervention. My dad held the man’s arm in a tight grip until he dropped the belt and he said, “I don’t ever want to see you hit a child like that again.” The man dropped the belt and went into the house. My dad never said anything about the incident to anyone that I am aware of. He didn’t even talk about it to me.

I learned from his behavior with these neighbors that it is always the right time to do the right thing.

Two years ago I retired after working as a Social Worker for 40 years. In that time I found myself extending my efforts to not just clients but to family, friends and neighbors. Since retirement, doing the right thing at the right time has kept me busy with a newly developed awareness of the broader needs of the community and the world. Compassion for people I do not know and participation in a variety of activities related to peace and justice have broadened my world and the sense of obligation to do something when the right time is here. You know what? The right time is always here.

by Jan Brown

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