Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: Change comes from within – sometimes, literally

Most people want to make a positive impact on the world, and everyone goes about it in different ways: donating to charities, volunteering at soup kitchens, writing letters to their representatives in the government.

Younger Sister recently brought to my attention a method I believe very few have tried: vomiting. She has only been this sick three times in her life, but every single time, she has used her illness as an agent of positive change, albeit unintentionally.

The first occurrence was when Younger Sister was quite young – she and Youngest Brother were still sharing a room. They had graduated from cribs to bunk beds, with the lower bunk positioned beneath the upper one so that, from above, they formed a backwards capital L.

Younger Sister had the upper bunk, Youngest Brother the lower, an arrangement that worked just fine until Younger Sister came down with a stomach bug.

Mom and Dad were woken up by Youngest Brother’s impassioned cries for help, as the angle of Younger Sister’s trajectory had rendered him a prisoner in the lower bunk – trapped, if you will, behind a rather unpleasant waterfall.

This little incident hastened our parents’ decision to separate the bunk beds so that my youngest siblings’ sleeping spaces no longer overlapped. The new arrangement was considered a positive change by everyone involved – Mom and Dad because Younger Sister and Youngest Brother could no longer talk as easily and thus fell asleep more quickly, and Younger Sister and Youngest Brother for more obvious reasons.

The second occasion came when Younger Sister was in elementary school and suffered an upset stomach during the school day. Younger Sister’s emesis (that’s the medical term for vomiting) commenced in the classroom and continued as her teacher escorted her to the nurse’s office.

At that time, unfortunately, the only way to access the nurse’s office was to walk through the front office, which housed the administrative staff and served as a waiting room for visitors.

After Younger Sister staggered through, leaving a trail behind her, a separate hallway entrance was quickly added to the nurse’s office.

There was no need to wait and bring the project up at the school district meeting and have the town vote on it. One sick child was all it took to convince those in charge that this would be a positive – and much-needed – change.

The third occurrence took place just a few weeks ago. Younger Sister hadn’t been feeling well, but she decided to tough it out and go to school, since it was almost the end of the week. She started to feel queasy during lunch, however, and tried to get out of the cafeteria to the bathroom.

Younger Sister navigated the crowded cafeteria briskly, throwing elbows as needed in order to make her exit in time. One upperclassman was in no hurry to let her pass, and she asked him to move in the refreshingly straightforward fashion that is so characteristic of Younger Sister.

“Get out of my way.”

The upperclassman gave her a disdainful look and informed her, essentially, that he would not get out of her way because she was a freshman and she was copping an attitude.

Younger Sister has never been one to mince words: “I’m gonna puke.”

The upperclassman cleared the area with impressive speed. Unfortunately, this delay had increased Younger Sister’s sense of urgency and the upperclassman had unintentionally stepped in front of the nearest trashcan, causing her emesis to take place on the floor nearby.

The rigid hierarchy that often characterizes high school society has caused many a student lament over the years. Change, however, begins with the individual. And after Younger Sister expressed her individuality so close to the feet of that upperclassman, I believe that makes one individual who will be less likely to give fast-moving freshmen a hard time in the future.

Though careful planning is generally a key element in bringing about lasting change, as Younger Sister has demonstrated, sometimes the best way to have an immediate impact on your surroundings is to simply let loose.

The results may just be more than you expect.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Dec. 5, 2013.

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