In the Humble Opinion of LittleBill, Socialist, Atheist, and Humanist
Things I Have Learned the Hard Way

Things I Have Learned the Hard Way

I was honored to be invited to speak to a class of fifth and sixth graders yesterday, and found myself absolutely delighted and encouraged by their questions, so here I am, unable to think of anything else until I write back to one of the questions which I could not answer at the time. The question was “Did you ever do something you were ashamed of?” I guess you don’t remember such things because you are so sorry for what you did, but I dreamed of two of them all night, and here they are.

The first happened while I was a little girl, 4 or 5. I went to a neighbor’s house with my doll buggy to play with one of my friends. We played with toys in her toy chest, one of which was a tiny candleholder – the kind you put on a birthday cake. I just loved it.

But when I left, my doll buggy was missing, and of course with a little girl’s mind, I reasoned that the disappearance was her fault. And so, the next time I went to her house, I stole the candleholder.

I have no idea what happened to my doll buggy, whether we found it again, or someone actually did take it, or whether she ever found that the candleholder was missing. No one else ever heard about this incident. I don’t even know whether I returned it myself. But I knew inside myself that what I did was wrong, and I have remembered it for over 80 years.

My second mistake was one which I should have known better than to have done. As a teenager, I was visiting a ranch where everyone hunted, and I was taken out to hunt birds. At some point, a porcupine was crossing the road ahead of us, and and one of the men got out, put his rifle to its head, and shot it. That was bad enough, but I was given a rifle and and my very first lesson in killing something. A grouse ran across the road and into the brush, and I shot at it. But we looked all over for it and never found it. It did not fly up, so I never knew if it was dead or dying alone. How could I have done such a thing?! Not only are almost all birds and animals nonaggressive, they don’t have any way of knowing that they are about to be killed In many cases, they don’t even know you are there, and they have no way to protect themselves from bullets and the many other ways that humans can kill them.

It was especially hard for me to write this second story, for which I will never forgive myself.