August 25, 2013: Modern Day Joan of Arc

Joan of the 80's...do I look tough??
Joan of Arc is forever ingrained in our minds as the epitome of the martyr; defender of mankind. Don't we all want to be the Joan of today? Saving the meek and out for the underdog. We want to come to their rescue and defeat the bad guy. If only we came equipped with the sword and armor that goes hand in hand with the Joan of Arc role.

My first real feeling of wanting to save the world one-person-at-a-time was in the 5th grade. Lyle was a boy in my brother's grade; two years older than me. Lyle was tall and lanky. He had wire rim glasses and kept to himself. Two years his younger, I didn't interact with him. He seemed shy, but with a disposition that struck me as kind.

This was the late 70's in small town Iowa. Small towns didn't have middle schools. We had grade schools and we had high schools. As a 5th grader, I was pooled with the "older kids". We also didn't have back packs. I am not quite sure when this great invention was introduced. If it was at this time, but we sure didn't know this luxury in Remsen. Needless to say, I carried a stack of books home every day from school which was also the norm of my classmates.

One spring day the mass exodus of school began after the sound of the anticipated end-of-school bell. We all scurried like a bunch of mice to escape the hot school (no air conditioning...another injustice that my children can not quite grasp). There were two steps that extended past the back exit door of the school. After I ran out the door along with the other 43 fifth graders, I stepped aside next to the building to wait for my brothers. I watched the kids pouring out while searching for Matt and Mark. Through the hustle, shoving, and positioning of getting out ahead of the rest, someone tripped and fell in the middle of the chaos. What quickly followed was the sound of kids laughing at this unexpected casualty.

There lay Lyle with books and papers strewn everywhere with his glasses half cocked. Everyone had stopped and were staring as he laid on the ground. I had this incredible desire to help this older boy out. So I knelt down among the older kids watching and helped a very bewildered Lyle gather his books and papers.

Without a word being exchanged, Lyle quietly went about his business; getting in line for the bus with everyone else continuing perpetual movement. I am not quite sure why that is such a strong memory for me. Possibly because it was my first real life experience in believing that you sometimes have to have courage to help someone and make a difference.

Fast forward nine years to my junior year in college. I had now gained some maturity and real life experiences in helping others; nothing terribly heroic or noteworthy, but experiences none the less. The story I'm about to tell involved Scott and I volunteering to drive the college drunk bus; a Happy Cab of sorts. As volunteer drivers, we shuttled enthusiastic party-goers to the sand pit and then back to campus again.

As many can relate, being a designated driver is never a glamorous role. In fact, it can be taxing. Drunks wear on the best of us. My point (foreshadowing) is that I might have had a bit of an edge the night of my perceived heroics.

This particular night was a warm fall night, early in the school year with a keg at the LeMars sand pit, a common place for college parties. We had made several trips when we pulled up to see ring of students gathered at the pit.

"What's going on?"  I asked Scott.

"I don't know," he said as he hopped out, running to the crowd to assess the situation.

I followed in the darkness trying to make out what the mass of people were watching so intently. As I pushed through the crowd, I saw the focus of their entertainment. A fight. Yep, a testosterone-filled, two boy, fist fight. In horror, I recognized the fighters.

Fighter #1 - Kelly. College quarterback, funny guy, life of the party, and the biggest heart breaker on campus. I fell in the large group of women who had dated Kelly at some point in time. Kelly was fun. With his charm and athletic ability, he was everyone's buddy and the BMOC.

Fighter # 2 - Cletus. Overweight, sloven, football bench-warmer, and ill-natured. He seemed forever unhappy and certainly won no popularity contests. In our college terms, he was a "Mugwump"; basically the jargon for campus nerd.

So Kelly and Cletus were center ring; throwing punches with onlookers watching and cheering. From my vantage point, Cletus was the victim. People were cheering for the popular and confident Kelly. Poor Cletus was being PICKED ON <gasp>!!

Somewhere from deep inside, Joan took over my being. With the bravery of a heroine, I pushed everyone out of my way and ran into the center of the ring. Cletus was on his back with Kelly delivering a blow. With strength that I didn't even know I had, I shoved Kelly to the ground. At the top of my lungs I started screaming.

"STOP, Kelly! What are you doing???  Leave him alone. Leave poor Cletus alone! What did he do to you?  STOP it NOW!!!"

As I was screaming at Kelly, he seemed paralyzed; staring at me in pure horror. You could have heard a pin drop. The crowd went silent, in shock at what was transpiring in front of them. In what felt like slow motion, I looked around at the crowd. The look on their faces read "What the Hell is Sandy doing?".

Kelly came to his senses and asked the question everyone was thinking, "Sandy, what the Hell are you doing?" I turned to my victim, Cletus, looking for validation from the man whom I had so valiantly saved. What I saw on his face wasn't relief or gratitude, but rather mortification and humiliation.

"What are you doing?" Cletus yelled at me.

I suddenly went from a feeling of anger to the feeling of  being naked on a stage. Without saying another word, I quietly walked back into the shadows. Cletus got up and walked away. Kelly, in his typical nature, cut the quiet in the air by cracking a joke. The party went on and I crawled back to the Drunk Bus.

Scott immediately asked the obvious question, "What just happened?"

My honest answer "I have no idea."

Life on campus proceeded as usual. Kelly continued to be the life of the party and Cletus continued his role as campus Mugwump. There were many times that Cletus and I would run into each other around campus. He would look away and didn't acknowledge my existence. I believe in today's terms it would be called being "dead in someones eyes".

Note to self: Before playing heroine 1) ascertain that there is truly a victim involved and more importantly, 2) verify that the purported victim wants your help. That was the flaw in my actions. I assumed. When it comes to love, war, and saving the world; never assume. Lesson learned.

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