I remember working in a certain grade school as a young man. I worked with two disabled students there, one in the 5th grade, one in the 2nd. Josh and David. Both were confined to wheelchairs by muscular dystrophy, but had been integrated into regular classrooms.
My participation with the other students was limited, although I would sometimes be asked to assist with this or that lesson.
I remember one student who was perhaps a bit of a troublemaker. He was friendly, but sometimes a bit disruptive. You could see from his clothing and from the way he spoke and from his general deportment that his parents must have been very poor, and were likely not very nice.
One day, we were in the auditorium for some reason, some kind of an assembly, and this young boy spat on the floor. Immediately, his teacher grabbed him by the shoulders, turned him about, and spat in his face.
There, how do YOU like it! she said.
I felt sickened, angry, outraged. And helpless.
And I did nothing. I said nothing.
Have you ever seen someone kick a friendly old dog. A dog who has approached, wagging his tail, thinking that he has found a friend?
Tears welled up in the young boy's eyes as he was sent to the office. This boy, with spit on his face, not the grown woman. And he wiped off the spit as he entered the hallway, and his lips were pressed together in stoic silence.
When lunch break came, I went to the field behind the school and I cried. And when recess was over, I went to the restroom and rinsed my face to erase the tears and set my lips, and in all this, I was not brave.
Through the years, I have remembered this often enough, and have relived the stinging regret of my silence, dumbly motionless, as if my feet had been nailed to the floor, as if right and wrong were none of my concern. I was nobody, an employee, with a job to do and a check to collect. And the world is a hard place, isn't it.
One cannot retrieve a single stitch of time. One cannot, ever, right his own wrong. One can, however, face and own his regret, and receive, as the only salve to be had, the fullness of its sting.