People use the New Year as a time to reflect and set goals, finish projects and/or start new ones. Doing so can only be of benefit in my opinion. After all, it’s hard to know where you are on the path or if you’re headed in the right direction if you’re not clear on where you’ve already been.
I have defined goals for 2013, but instead of sharing those I’d like to tell you about something I revisited not long ago, when I believe my mind was finally able to process and deal with it.
My first night visiting downtown Boston (over 25 years ago) was “eventful” to say the least. I was present when two men I’d just met confessed to a gang-involved murder. They spoke Spanish and I’m sure they felt comfortable speaking in front of me as I was a doe-eyed, pasty girl from Minnesota — where most Bostonians at the time thought we still lived in log cabins and fished to survive. In truth, I had studied Spanish for 4 years and substitute-taught Beginning Spanish at my high school. Though I tried to control my reaction to what they were saying, it wasn’t effective. I was visibly horrified and scared to death. The following 10 hours are a story in itself, and I won’t go into that, but will sum it up by saying that thankfully I wasn’t harmed nor were any of the people with me that night harmed.
I told my family and friends back home what happened. Most of them didn’t believe me; they assumed I was “trying out” a story on them since I’d moved out east to write. I eventually stopped talking about it and the events of that night slowly faded away.
In a conversation with a friend about street violence just a couple years ago, I recalled what happened that night in Boston. “Did you report it to the police?” I was stunned. No, I didn’t. Why didn’t I report it? I don’t know. The honest truth is that it had not even crossed my mind that I should. I was terribly ashamed at that point and didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t felt guilty for not reporting it because I had never even considered it. I must have been in survival mode and think I was so grateful to have made it home again, and was so traumatized by the evening, my mind pushed it away. I felt nervous and ridiculous for doing so, but I did contact the Boston Police Department. Over 24 years after the occurrence, I didn’t know if it would do any good but thought I should try. I dug around for my old journals and found the dates, times, names and details of streets, etc. that I’d documented, and copied it all for the PD. They received it and asked more questions. I answered every question to the best of my recollection. They didn’t think I was ridiculous for reporting it then.
It proved to me that it’s never too late to try to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome. No one could be more critical of my lack of reporting than I have been, kicking myself over and over. But we’re also just human and we have limits. We have physical limitations, and mental and emotional limitations. I was wrong not to report the incident, but I did what I could to set it right. That’s all any of us can do with past mistakes when we recognize them.
George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s important for us all to look ahead with promise and optimism to the vast possibilities 2013 offers us, but with the understanding and education of the experiences that guided us here.