One of my most vivid memories growing up was something that happened to me in the seventh grade. I’d just started attending this new junior high school where I didn’t know anyone. To get there, I had to ride the school bus for over an hour each way since my stop just so happened to be the first one along the route.
I shared the stop with this kid named Jason who was also in the seventh grade. But we couldn’t have been more different. I was a short, nerdy, and quiet with a bowl cut, whereas he was tall, popular, and athletic with beautiful blonde hair.
I wouldn’t say that Jason and I were friends, exactly. We didn’t hang out during school or anything, but since we lived in the same general direction from our bus stop, we’d usually walk most of the way home together.
Considering I had no other friends at that point, I found our walks comforting in a way. Probably because I saw Jason as someone who was nothing like me. For example, I spent every recess alone, while he was always playing basketball and was clearly one of the best players on the court.
So I suppose in my adolescent mind, I was sort of proud to know him. I was proud of the fact that he didn’t seem embarrassed to be seen walking with me, nor did he treat me any differently from the other kids as we talked about video games, and TV shows, and whatever else junior high school kids typically talked about.
In those days, kids from low income families were given these bright yellow lunch tickets to pay for their meals. It was how I ate lunch every day. I never had any actual money on me and had to eat whatever was on the menu, but the other kids would usually go to the snack bar and buy themselves a bag of chips, or some candy, or a soda, and all I could do was watch with envy.
The most popular item at the snack bar was this big pickle that came wrapped in saran wrap. I’d see my classmates biting into them with a crunch and my mouth would water with desire. It was only fifty cents, but I couldn’t even afford that, until finally, about a month into the semester, I had somehow managed to scrounge up two quarters from somewhere, though I don’t remember where.
What I do remember is my excitement as I went up to the snack bar, placed my two quarters on the counter, and said, “One pickle, please.”
But instead of eating it right away, I decided to save it for my walk home since I was usually hungry then. That afternoon after the bus dropped us off, Jason and I started walking together as usual when I suddenly remembered my pickle. I swung my backpack around, unzipped the small, outer pocket and pulled out my pickle.
Just as I start unwrapping it, Jason looked over and asked: “Can I have a bite?”
Without even giving it a second thought, I said no.
Jason’s reaction was immediate. Suddenly he was no longer smiling, and I knew I’d made a mistake.
“No wonder nobody likes you! You’re selfish!” he said and stormed off without me.
I remember standing there in a bit of shock. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind that he would get upset with me for not sharing the pickle with him. I felt miserable. When I finally took a bite of the pickle, it wasn’t even good, which wasn’t surprising considering it had been sitting in my backpack all afternoon.
This incident stayed with me for many years afterward. I guess I realized deep down that Jason was right. I was selfish, and this knowledge stuck with me all the way into adulthood. It was as if what I wanted more than anything was to prove to the world that Jason had been wrong about me.
So when I eventually did have friends of my own, I found myself always making sure to pay more than my fair share. I never wanted it to appear as if I was taking advantage of the generosity of others, so I’d go out of my way to buy an extra round and never arrived at a party empty handed. But I didn’t do these things because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to, which defeats the purpose, I suppose.
I don’t know what the point of me telling you all this is, or if there’s a moral to the story, but I guess you could say that for once I really did just want to share.