It was a little before 6 PM, and I received an urgent call from my wife, Julie. “You got to get here now!” She said. She had driven my daughter to Naperville North High School for her 7 PM commencement ceremony. “The place is already packed!” Julie exclaimed through my earpiece.
I told her parents that we needed to finish dinner and get moving. Soon we were in my car driving the 6 minutes to the school. As we arrived, I could already see the parking lot filling. Luckily, my wife had obtained handicapped parking, as her parents are both near 90.
Her parents were guided to handicap seating, and we made our way to the bleachers. As usual, guests had secured extra spaces for their friends and relatives by holding spots with coats and blankets. With that said, there were still swatches of seating, and we quickly found a place for the three of us. We settled in, and I started to fiddle with my camera.
About three rows in front of us was a family of Indian origin. It looked like a dad, mom, a kid and some relatives. It appeared that they had a good family representation, but they also had blanketed an area in front of them for additional guests.
Around 10 minutes before the ceremony I saw a large white man out of the corner of my eye. He was wearing the suburban white guy uniform, khaki pants, and a blue shirt. With him was a teenage girl sporting an expensive haircut, and presumably, the guy’s wife who looked like a suburban white mom. He started to push his way into the bleachers as he headed for the seats reserved by the Indian family. I could hear the small Indian man telling him that he was saving the seats for his family. The big white guy seemed to sneer as he loudly said, “They are not here now, they lose their seats.” (or something similar to that). The Indian man protested more, but the big white guy moved forward, followed by his family. Speaking of the white guy’s family, they moved in without any sign that they were disturbed by his behavior. I thought, “Talk about entitled.”
The Indian man gave up, but I could see the humiliation on his face. My wife turned to my son and told him, Don’t you ever act like that man.” My son replied, “I never would, or will.”
Five minutes later I spotted a younger Indian man coming up the bleachers. Behind him was an elderly Indian woman. Her very white hair neatly pulled into a bun, her body bent over from age. The reserved seats were intended for these people. I imagined the younger man picking up his grandmother for this extraordinary day. I pondered that they likely came a little late to avoid the surging crowds, as the lady looked frail. I thought of the excitement that they must have felt anticipating the graduation.
There was no seat for them. The white guy saw them but could care less. They uncomfortably squeezed in with their relatives. I felt as powerless as the small Indian guy. Do I create a scene? That would do nothing. Should I apologize to the Indian man for the other guy’s horrible, entitled, and self-centered behavior? That would probably embarrass him even more. I said a little prayer.
At the end of the two-hour ceremony, we exited, and God granted me a favor. As I was coming down the bleachers, I saw the elderly Indian woman trying to exit. The crowd was pushing forward and would not yield. I drew myself to my biggest white guy size, and I blocked the path behind me making space not only her but her entire clan to exit. As the small Indian man left the row, he looked up at me, and in his eyes, I could see his appreciation. I showed him the respect that he deserved. I felt a little bit better.
The big white guy had hooted when his son’s name was called to gather his diploma. I made a mental note as I wanted to see who he was. I thought he had to be someone in power to treat another human being so terribly. I found the son on Google. He played football for NNHS and had a few minor newspaper articles, but I could not find the dad. His big guy’s ego was more significant than his position. One of the articles that I saw mentioned that the son was a “good guy.” I thought to myself, “I hope so.”
Dear reader, please love your neighbor, and “Don’t’ you ever act like that man.”