The time had finally arrived. I had made it! My dream of six years had at last come true.

First grade!  What could be more awesome?

The year wore on without a hitch. Everything was perfect. After all, I was on top of the pile. I was accepted by my peers as one of the “neat kids”.

And why shouldn’t I be? I was top of class. I was the smallest little squiggle on the playground, and I could run the fastest. Little kids were really “in” that year. I had won every marshmallow pie so far for finishing my workbooks first. I was from a good family with a good name—way better name than most students.

Whoopee, life was great!

Today was Valentine’s Day. My teacher, beloved Mrs. G, had us busy making clever heart-shaped cards for each other. I thought mine were the prettiest—much nicer than those of the slow, unattractive girl in the corner.

Carmen was her name. Carmen, the gawky girl with big sunken eyes and drooping shoulders. Carmen, whose last name was the worst in town. Carmen, who was looked down upon by all the other kids in the class. Some called her “ape face”, and once during recess, a sixth-grade boy even spat on her.

But she deserved those things, didn’t she?  After all, she wore ugly clothes and shoes with holes. Her face was plain. Her hair was poker straight, not curly like mine. She didn’t even have freckles. Freckles were cool, and they were “in”.

Sure, deep down, I felt sorry for Carmen. But I couldn’t let my classmates see that I felt pity. I had a reputation to maintain.

I watched Carmen from my desk, and my curiosity got the best of me. As inconspicuously as possible, I wandered by to see what she was doing. She was making a heart card. I watched as she painstakingly glued a spiked border around the awkward mass of paper and glue.

“Ridiculous,” I thought. “Green and orange together? Everyone knows you don’t put green and orange together.”

I thought of my beautiful pink, blue, and lavender creations sparkling with silvery glitter and labeled neatly with even lettering. This girl was a poor excuse for humanity. Surely, God must not love her as much as He loved me to put her in a family with no looks or talent.

Carmen looked up at me. Her watery brown eyes were sad and empty. But I could see a slight sparkle there as though she hoped for an expression of approval from me. Something mean and snarly awakened from the little girl monster child deep within me that should never have come alive. Pointing to her green and orange Valentine, I said it coldly and bluntly.

“It’s ugly.  So are you.”

The small sparkle in Carmen’s eyes vanished. She winced slightly, and her eyes dulled. I could see that her soul was deeply wounded. I shall never forget her expression. It is as clear to me now as it was then. It was as though I had struck with a knife, yet she absorbed the blow without fear or malice. Those bottomless brown eyes seemed aged and worn as she simply looked at me, and looked at me, and looked at me.

What seemed to be several minutes was actually only moments, but I was affected, and oh, how deeply. Guilt and shame swept over me. At that moment, my wretched sensitive little heart was permanently scarred with tortuous regret. I managed a small giggle for the benefit of my classmates looking on, and stumbled back to my desk.

Why, oh why, did I say it? If only I could call back those words. But they had flown like time from my grasp and could never be recalled. My heart ached and my soul begged for the mercy of forgiveness, but I couldn’t ask for it. The others would know. They would know.

I spent the remainder of the day in soberness.  My usual carefree heart was shadowed with guilt, and my moments of laughter were cut short, stabbed with remembrance of my sin.

The following day was a party day. I should have been excited. Mrs. G was handing out our gift boxes filled with candy and cookies and heart cards from our friends. My name was called, and I received my box bursting with gifts from my many friends. Without much interest, I glanced over each card and set it aside.

Then I saw it on the bottom of the pile—the green and orange heart!

My heartbeat accelerated, and my hands trembled. A tremendous lump formed in my throat. I opened the card and read.

Dear Margret.

Yew are smart. yew are nise. i lik yew

Lov Carmen

I cried. Oh, how I suffered. I cried and cried. I had to leave the classroom. I cried some more. Mrs. G wanted to help, but I couldn’t explain. The eyes of the class were upon me. They might find out I was soft. I discovered the weight of the world at six years old.

I carried the burden of that green and orange heart for fifteen years. Then one day, at the age of twenty-one, I apologized. It was easy to ask forgiveness from Carmen. She and I had been friends for years, and we could almost laugh over it now. I wish I had apologized sooner. How important it is to overcome one’s foolish pride.

We are all God’s children. He is no respecter of persons. We are all striving to become all that we can be, but each one of us is traveling at our own pace. How futile it is to compare ourselves to one another. How silly we must sometimes appear to our Great Creator as we clamber over each other, scrambling up that ridiculous pedestal of pride that we go to such great lengths to construct for ourselves.

That seemingly desirable ascension is nothing more than ghost froth, the foolish illusion of personal accomplishment, as we trample upon the ruins of our neighbor’s character. How we deceive ourselves by thinking that to rise above another is our well-deserved premium real estate, when it is nothing more than a false and fated height of pride and prejudice, reached by looking down our noses at those we presume to be less wise and wonderful than ourselves.

If ever you are tempted to blurt out mean and hurtful words to snub someone—anyone—the one with the unpopular name; the kid with dark skin and funny hair; the one with the fat nose and short legs; the dumb boy who never gets anything right; the chubby girl whose legs talk to each other as she walks; the one we think is too young to understand; the one who lisps so badly; the one who smells so poorly;  the one whose dad had a fight with mine; the one who wears such weird clothes; the one who talks too much; the one who never speaks; the one who always gets in trouble; the one who is always well-behaved; the one who can’t bat the ball past the pitcher; the one who can’t carry a tune in a dumpster, let alone a bucket…

THINK AGAIN!!

How terrible regret is. How thankful I am for repentance. If ever you are tempted to think that maybe mean and ugly words hidden under the guise of sarcasm won’t bother the other kid or hurt yourself, come and find me. I will personally describe to you the tremendously deep feelings of a six-year-old little squiggle who learned a most valuable lesson from a Christ-like friend and a green and orange heart.

In the old days, they always said, “Ladies before Gentlemen.” These days…well…times have changed. Is it Ladies before Gentlemen, or is it Dudes before Broads?

Which should it be? It depends on who you ask.

A couple years ago when I first started solo truck driving, one day I pulled into a Receiver and parked by another female trucker.

“Hey! Another Lady Trucker,” I said cheerily.

Uh oh. Shift. Reverse. My friendly greeting was perceived as an insult.

“Don’t call ME a lady,” the creature roared. “Hell, I ain’t no lady and proud of it.”

“I could hardly tell,” I tittered.

“Don’t get me wrong,” the woman barked. “I love men, but they are useless. I’m a bad arse, and clear full of sheeee-it.”

Okay, fine. Up went her window, and up went mine. Each to her own. Oh, gracious womanhood, where hast thou vamoosed?

Way back three years ago when I first started trucking, a female trainer whom I shall call Big Belle informed me in extra colorful language, “Now, Maggie, you HAVE to learn to flip birds and say the F word all day. There ain’t no way you’ll survive out there unless you fight for every inch. Those F’n men and their F’n trucks will get in your F’n way.”

I couldn’t help smirking at her “tough gal” bravado since she looked for all the world like Fat Broad with her club looking for unsuspecting snakes.

I replied, “My friend, I am convinced I can get further faster if I behave like a lady. Just because I work like a man doesn’t mean I have to look like a man or act like a man.”

That has proven to be true. I get along just fine and I don’t have to flip birds or say the F word. If I ever have breakdowns on the Road, there is no shortage of gentlemen truckers who are kind and respectful and willing to help a lady.

Once in a great while, I meet a grizzled old surly Super Trucker with long past dead chivalry.

Last week I pulled into a Petro truck stop for fuel. Judging by the overcrowded lanes at every pump, you would have thought we were in line for hot dogs and Buds at the Super Bowl.

I saw one fuel lane at the far end opening up as a truck departed, so I swung in and parked. As I did so, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a cool dude driver waving his arms and running towards his truck which was parked off to the side. I didn’t think much of it until said driver descended upon me a few minutes later and shook his fist in my face.

My fuel pumped cheerfully as the man hollered.”How dare you PIG in front of me? You are the rudest woman I’ve ever met. Can’t you see I was in line waiting to fuel? That is unforgivable of you to just drive in there like you own the place when the rest of us have to wait in line!”

My keyboard is rather sensitive so I refrain from typing out the rest of his explicit language which largely favored the letter F and the consonant combinations SH.

I was so shocked, I probably stood there gaping like a guppy. My momentary paralysis soon resolved into barely concealed mirth because there’s something about the sight of a full-grown man jumping up and down and shouting cuss words like a maniac that never fails to bring on the giggles.

“You’re absolutely right,” I agreed between chortles. “Totally unforgivable of me to not behave like a gentleman. Heaven forbid that a lady should go first. Would you like me to shift this here pump in reverse and siphon that fuel out of my truck and put it back into the ground? If you’ll get out of my way, I’ll be happy to back up and let you go first.”

The irate man shut his mouth and suddenly his shoes became more fascinating than my face. Perhaps by now he began to see the foolishness of his position. After all, he wasn’t even in his truck when I drove in. While his truck was parked off to the side waiting for an opening, he had probably run to the potty. Poor pitiful man. If only I had understood the situation before I OINKED my way in front of him.

“Listen,” I told the embarrassed UN-gentleman. “The last thing on earth I want to do is demand to go first. I have noticed that most of you cool super truckers insist on being first, and I’m fine with that. I’m in no hurry.”

“My mom would kill me,” the driver muttered.

“What did you say?” I queried.

“My mom. If she were alive, she’d hunt me down and string me up for behaving so rudely to a lady.”

“Sounds like you had a good mother,” I replied.

“I sure did,” the man mused. “I apologize for forgetting my manners. Seriously, most women are so demanding, I have turned my back on old-fashioned chivalry.”

“I can understand that,” I sympathized. “These days, it seems like everybody is in a hurry to be first. Many women get offended if men treat them special. I can understand why you’re out of practice.”

And then miraculously, that rough, rude, selfish, cool dude truck driver turned into a gentlemen. He shined up my truck mirrors and washed the windows. He asked if I wanted a tire check. He tended me and my truck like a caring big brother, and we parted as friends.

So, I have to flip birds and shout the F word to survive in a male dominated industry, huh? Not hardly. I must have been  born in the wrong century.

When men behave like gentlemen, it’s way funner behaving like a lady. Oh, gracious Womanhood. If only modern-day woman could understand the benefits of your honorable qualities.

Wait. Maybe if men would lead out in the Improvement Movement and start behaving like gentlemen, eventually…most, if not all, of the Fat Broad battleaxe women will see the benefit in putting down their weapons of war and embracing their true identity of

Princess and Queen.

Maybe. Just maybe.