Originally posted on Goodreads!
As a side job to support my writing career, I work as a yard supervisor at an elementary school. Part of this job includes assisting children in the lunchroom. That was what I was doing when some students noticed a cloud of smoke in the distance beyond the fence on the other side of the playground.
A group of the students began speculating as to what might be the cause of the smoke. A fire seemed to be the most likely culprit, according to them. A house fire.
Another little boy raised his hand to get my attention and informed me that he not only did not appreciate the type of conversation but that it was putting him off his lunch. I suggested to the group of students that they needed to respect the fact this other kid asked them to please stop and maybe speak quieter so the other student did not have to hear and could finish his food. Understandably, a conversation of that nature is rather frightening and even unsettling to think about. And, all in all, it is lunch time and the boy needed to be able to eat his food.
As I walked away from the table, something about how I handled the situation did not sit right. What happened kept replaying in my head and upon a minute or so of more thought led me to another way of looking at it.
Why shouldn't that group of students still be allowed to talk and speculate? Yes, it was an unsettling conversation, but what did it teach to them and that boy about when unsettling conversations are brought up? Just as that boy has a right to eat his lunch in peace, that group of students had a right to talk it out.
Talking is a way of coping. And smoke, like a car accident, is hard to ignore. Human nature lends itself to curiosity and often talking it out is a way to reach an understanding.
I went back to the table and told that boy, "You know what? Just as they need to respect that you don't like this conversation, you need to respect that they might need this conversation. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don't like what is being talked about, you don't like what show just came on television, you don't like a certain book, you can remove yourself from the conversation. I understand that it is frightening or unsettling, but if they keep talking about it and you can still hear it, you can take your lunch and move to a different seat."
Big concept in a seemingly little moment, self censorship. It reminded me of banning books. Amazing books that bring up some incredible conversation, but because one person objects, suddenly they try to silence it, ban it. More often than not, these are conversations we need to have, too. That people do more harm than good in trying to censor others, rather than simply censoring for themselves.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...