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Pretty Much What Most History Books Are Doing These Days

, , , , , | Right | January 14, 2022

I’m designing a photographic history exhibit for a prestigious university. The project requires a series of panels that each depict a different decade, from the 1930s to the present.

Client: “You know, this is all great, but it could use a little more diversity. Right now, there are a lot of photos of all white men, and we don’t want to send the wrong message.”

Me: “Okay, that’s a reasonable request. I could pull some photos of your black student organizations and women’s center and add those to the panels showing the school’s more recent history.”

Client: “Actually, we’d love more diversity in the early panels too.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Client: “Like this panel depicting the university in the 30s. All the photos are of white men!”

The school did not admit black students until the 1970s.

You May Be Sleepy But You’re Not Wrong

, , , , , , | Learning | December 5, 2021

It’s my third class of the day, history, at 11:30 am. Despite the early time, I’m exhausted, meaning I don’t have much of a filter. My history professor is having us answer questions about the Constitution as a refresher before the lesson. If someone gives the right answer — or even tries — he gives them a chocolate.

The professor clicks to the next slide.

Professor: “Okay. In two sentences, explain what the Constitution consists of.”

Me: “I don’t know. Words?”

Professor: “…”

The professor slowly handed me a chocolate as the class laughed.

Tragedy Often Exposes Kindness In Strange Places

, , , , , , | Friendly | November 6, 2021

Twenty years ago, I lived in New Jersey just across from New York City. My boyfriend and I worked in one of the buildings around the World Trade Center. I was five months pregnant in September of 2001. My boyfriend’s birthday was on the 11th. We usually made the trip to work together, but the day before, he told me that he was going to take his birthday off. I decided to go to work earlier than usual so I could finish my day early and join him for dinner.

On the 11th, I took the ferry across the Hudson River as usual. Just as I exited the ferry, I — and everyone else — watched as the first plane hit a tower. I stood there in shock. I was not sure what to do. I called my office.

Me: “Hi, [Boss]. I’m outside now. Do you see what is happening? I don’t know what to do.”

Boss: “I can’t tell you. I’m not sure myself.”

As I stood there with others in the street trying to figure out my next move, the second plane hit. Pandemonium struck. People screamed and ran. I started heading back to the ferry terminal. I was in danger of being trampled. I looked around and laid eyes on the biggest, baddest, biker-looking dude that I could imagine. I went to him and tapped him on the shoulder. It was too loud, with the screaming and crying, to talk to him. I got his attention and pointed at my pregnant belly with both hands. That man, that saint, that Earthly angel, put his huge shoulders around mine and started scooting me out of the area toward the ferry.

Big Scary Man: “Move! Move NOW! Pregnant lady here! Get out of the way!”

He escorted me, protected me, enveloped me, all the way to the ferry. He made sure I got on and seated and then he saw the boat off. I lost sight of him in the throng of people trying to exit the island. Maybe he went to help others? I will never know.

My daughter was born several months later and is now a college student. To that man: thank you. You may never know how much you helped me that day.

This story is part of our end-of-year Feel Good roundup for 2021!

Read the next Feel Good 2021 story!

Read the Feel Good 2021 roundup!

Most Moms WANT Their Kids To Build Character

, , , , , , | Related | September 16, 2021

I was deployed to Louisiana as a volunteer disaster responder after Hurricane Katrina. The damage was so great, and the media coverage so thorough, that an unprecedented number of people volunteered for the first time to come down south and help out.

My job at the time was shuttle driver; I ferried volunteers and their luggage back and forth from the headquarters building and the local airport. Quite late one evening, I was called to pick up a young college student whose flight had just arrived.

When I got to the airport, she was standing next to an older woman who, as it turned out, was her mother. This woman got in a car and followed us to the HQ, followed us INTO the HQ, and then tagged after us while I signed in the new volunteer and showed her where she would be sleeping.  

Mom took one look at the sleeping room — three rows of snoring volunteers on rickety cots or on blankets on the floor — and hit the roof.

Mom: *Hissing* “You are not staying here!”

She grabbed her daughter by the arm and frog-marched her back out to the car.

This woman — upon learning that her lovely child had signed up to do relief work — had driven down to Louisiana from Ohio in her car, timing it so that she could meet her daughter’s plane and check us out.

I guess we didn’t pass muster. I felt so sorry for the girl; I wonder if she ever managed to get out from under Mom’s thumb.

There’s No Freeing Yourself From This Awkwardness

, , , , , | Related | September 7, 2021

My goddaughter’s mother was eager to go to a museum that was just opening up while she happened to be in town visiting me, so I went with her to the opening day ceremony. The museum was well put together, but since we were there on opening day, it took forever just to get in, and it was extremely crowded once we finally got in.

My goddaughter was a toddler at the time, and I’d strapped her into one of those wearable carriers to carry her when it was clear she was falling asleep. After a long nap, she finally woke up and started to get restless in the carrier. She was a very active child who didn’t want to be held when she could be exploring. Because of how crowded the area was, for a while, I tried my best to distract her to keep her in the carrier so she wouldn’t be underfoot, but eventually, she was too restless and had to be let out.  

Me: “Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll set you free.”

I worked her out of the carrier and set her on the ground.

Me: “There you go! You’re finally free!”

I lifted my arms as if celebrating, and my goddaughter did the same back at me before starting to toddle off. We had done this whole routine, including her lifting her arms to celebrate being set loose along with me, a few times before, so I didn’t think much of it until I looked up and noticed someone looking at me funny.

It was only then that I realized that I, a white man, had just made a big deal about setting my black goddaughter free at the opening day of the African American History Museum, in a section explicitly dedicated to the time period leading up to freeing of the slaves.

Let’s just say I have never been accused of having an excess of tact and my people skills are pretty much limited to persons with an age of twelve or lower. I tried to give the person giving me the odd look an apologetic smile and slunk off after my goddaughter.