.

The Choice is Yours to Make a Positive Difference

Individually, we are the only one that can make a positive change within ourselves.

I felt a chill run through me as my palms became clammy from nervousness. This was supposed to be fun, yet, I no longer wanted to be in that room.  Fear and worry for the players on both teams, coursed through me, as I felt my heart rate increase. I sensed more than heard the chanting as it turned into taunting, then to full-blown encouragement then cheers when negative action was taken. It was obvious that the spectators were goading them on; while the players were feeding on the negative energy as it manifested and grew into a hideous beast, to cling and devour its prey. This game was not going to be pretty. All I could think about was that I needed to get out of that gymnasium, and get some air.

I was no longer watching a competitive basketball game; I was watching a war unfold in front of my eyes and it made me ill. I have played and been, to many basketball games over the years. Games that was so competitive that at times I would catch myself holding my breath in anticipation of the next move from either team. Some of those games, my favorite team would win and as such is life, some games would be painful losses. Yet, with the excitement of true competitiveness and good sportsmanship from the athletes, and spectators, the losses were accepted and praise abounded for a job well done on both sides. It was painfully clear, this was, and would not be, one of those games.

I would like to be able to say, that, it was only the students that were doing the taunting from the stands. It would have been easier to brush off, stating, because of their youth, they did not understand or maybe have not been taught what is appropriate or inappropriate to yell and chant.

No, I cannot say that, because a good portion of the encouragement of retaliation came from parents and other adult spectators. Retaliation did come, quite swiftly in fact, and often.  I caught myself wincing more than once as I saw players deliberately trip and shove opposing players. Each time, I would breathe a sigh of relief when they stood back up and no serious physical injury evident. They were lucky this time. I no longer cared who won or lost - I wanted the game over.

Why, as a society, do we teach our children that violence needs to be reciprocated? We oftentimes follow the mentality, that if we are struck, then we must strike back! How great would it be, to go to a game, and instead of all the swearing, taunting and encouragement to draw blood; what if we instead stand as parents, family, friends, faculty and students, as one, in verbal silence while clapping slowly. What a great message of support it would be to our team saying through our solidarity, we see you. We see how you are being treated, and we do not like it. We support your decision to not reciprocate with anger but take our energy and remain strong and in good sportsmanship. It could be taught to the players, when they see this, it is to mean that they are to remain strong, play hard, but play with integrity.

Mr. Carbone taught me this lesson in high school. I was the angry student/athlete. The world/life is against me, student/athlete. Not many people messed with me. During one particular game, where another player and I were getting extremely, physically nasty with each other – he pulled me aside and asked why I was retaliating. My response being, “she started it – I was going to finish it.” 

Coach Carbone then asked me to do one thing – stop retaliating and play the game the best that I could. No more, no less. “The only way a fight can continue is if there are two or more people allowing it to continue. The choice is yours, Kelly.”

I did not like what he was saying, but I knew he was going to pull me from the game if I did not adjust my game. So, I didn’t respond when she shoved me as I was going up for a lay-up (even though my hand fisted, and I wanted to deck her), landing hard. I did get both of my foul shots. It just about killed me, but I did not respond negatively, when she kneed me in the back of the legs, or jammed her fist into my ribcage, as she was defending me. Instead, I focused on my shot. After time, the crowd started to see her brutality to me, as did the referees. No longer was it ok, because no longer was I returning the brutality. That was one of my highest scoring games ever.  That was, also, one of my greatest life lessons.

Some of the changes we have made against violence in our society was not from returning the violence. In fact, the complete opposite, it was made through positive action and words.

“Words are alive.  They are living, breathing things.  They cling to you.  They get into the air then into your hair, your pores, the walls, and the floor.”  - Maya Angelo

When I heard Maya Angelo make this statement, I got gooseflesh. Finally, someone spoke aloud what I believed. I have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I disagree. Words are so much more powerful.

Think back to the first time when you heard someone tell you,”I love you,” the words wrapping around your heart in a silent hug. Then, as time went on maybe heard the words, “will you marry me?” Again, maybe, flash forward years later and that same person coming to you and saying, “I want a divorce.” Words are powerful.

If you have children, remember the first time you heard the words “You are pregnant.”

I remember those three words. I remember that excitement of learning that a child was living and growing inside of me. I remember the happiness thinking of the possibilities of a future with a baby. Those three words were music to my ears. I also remember, nine months later, as a nurse whispered in my ear, while stroking my hair in comfort, “I am so sorry, your baby has died.”  Feeling the crushing pain as I held that tiny baby in my arms, wanting so much for her to breathe again, yet knowing she never would. I remember the sadness and despair those words brought to me. Indeed, words are powerful.

Tell a child often enough that they are stupid – they will believe you.  Tell a child often enough that they can do anything – be anything – they will believe you.  The word choice is yours.

Words are alive, they have energy, and they elicit emotions. Words can incite anger and riots – but they also can inspire hope and the possibility of something better.

I have seen athletes tear each other apart. Leaders and teachers, that should be building up the youth, only to tear them down – sometimes, just for the simple fact that they are not quite good enough, in that persons point of view. Instead of embracing who that person is as an individual, instead, the person is grouped together and rated, analyzed and then it is determined that they are just not good enough.

I have, also, seen athletics play their heart out, showing sportsmanship, by helping another opponent up after being knocked down. I have watched as an athlete approach another player after the game, shaking hands while acknowledging the well fought battle, while conceding defeat.  All choices made by the individual. I have watched teachers, not just list the academic faults of a student, but also the wonderful things they see in that students character and work.

We can make a positive difference through our words and actions - or not - the choice is, and always will be our individual one to make.

Kelly Ilebode is a Malden resident and published author.  If you would like to visit her personal website, you can go to www.kellyilebode.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kelly Ilebode February 25, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Excellent point and I AM in agreement with you on what you are saying Mike G. And that definitely wasn't my point. There are several points that I was trying to make, Sometimes there is a better way to word things. There is a difference between positive criticism and flat out personal meanness and sometimes there is a better way to respond to negativity then being negative. I also believe that no one is ALL bad. Is it so horrible to temper criticism with something positive? (Mike -What part did you feel that I was saying that - I need to go back and see that section)
Kelly Ilebode February 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM
"Failure is a notion that I believe my generation and the ones that follow are being shielded from, and that's not good." In re-reading this statement, I could not agree with you more. It is through our failures and others pointing out those failures that make us adjust and change and grow. IMHO, the part of society where children are always lifted up never realize their full potential, because they have been told they have reached that potential. For me, and I am only speaking for myself and my journey, I had the opposite. There were adults that ripped me to shreds telling me I would never amount to anything and for the longest time - I believed them.. until I realized it was up to me to find the positive inside of myself. Thanks for making me think hard on this one lol
jirkyrick February 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM
it takes a village to raise an Idiot.....
Kelly Ilebode February 25, 2013 at 02:37 PM
lol love the snowflake comment and very true - I look to, and appreciate comments such as yours Mike to do better and get better at my writing so that my thoughts are more clear and concise (I am definitely a work in progress) - in re-reading my article I can see where you could get a different view....
paul surette February 25, 2013 at 06:47 PM
What a model Quaker you are, Kelly! That had to be one of the most convoluted things I have ever read.
Kelly Ilebode February 25, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Why, golly gee Mr. Surette - you know me so well *curtseys in Quaker dress* lol
david mokal February 25, 2013 at 08:01 PM
HEY ! I luv Quakers n cheeeze!
david mokal February 25, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Kelly It is a nice story you had written. Every morning when I go outside I sing that Loving Song Mr Rogers used to sing..Isn't It A lovlely Neighborhood ? Wont you be my neighbor? Just love that song. Of course the other song "Wear a Frown Upside Down..LOL
Kelly Ilebode February 25, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Lol toooo funny David ... that made me smile
moxie February 26, 2013 at 04:22 AM
Kelly, I so appreciate the energy and thoughtfulness that you are investing in your blogs. I struggle as a mother, raising a daughter with innate skill and fierce competitive drive, on and off the field/court. It's a menacing challenge to support and foster the skill of the game, and at the same time insist on doing the right thing. There lies a fine line between standing up for yourself and your team, and sinking into the trap of revenge and retaliation. This is a worthy topic in need of a whole lot attention. Thank You, Kelly
moxie February 26, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Oh, and I am not ignoring the importance of language and the significant impact that words have on a kid...or anyone, for that matter. I'd be happy to have coffee and discuss the symantics, any day. Could Be fun!
moxie February 26, 2013 at 04:34 AM
I don't think that this is a treatise on mediocrity. Quite the opposite. Seems like a statement on teaching kids to know the right thing to do. I don't agree with the "every trophy for every kid˝, practice. But the fundamentals of sportsmanship and hard work are solid.
moxie February 26, 2013 at 04:36 AM
Thats too easy...and really lazy.
Kelly Ilebode February 26, 2013 at 01:17 PM
Always ready for coffee - and good conversation :D
Julie the Jarhead May 03, 2013 at 09:15 PM
moxie, what do you expect from people who sit on their arses in front of a computer. Ouch ... I think I pulled a muscle in my right pinky finger; darned 'p' key!
Julie the Jarhead May 03, 2013 at 09:16 PM
I love my Quaker oatmeal.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something