My family lived in Waco, Texas when I began attending elementary school. I had a friend whose family lived in one of the largest homes of anyone I have personally known. Although it might not seem as expansive now. While I do not remember his name (I’ll call him Rick) or how we became acquainted, I distinctly remember parts of the house and activities we were involved in. There were parts of the house I never saw.

There were small enclosed stairs at the back entrance – or one of the back entrances – that led to a small, seemingly hidden room on the second floor, and a larger room on the third floor. The smaller room was a reading room of sorts, and I think that the larger room was the entirety of the third floor. The only access to the rest of the house was through a short hall on the second floor leading from the stairs and reading room. The larger room had a large tv – for the time – an easy chair, a sofa, a coffee table, and little else I cared about noticing at the time.

Behind the easy chair was a cardboard box about 3’x3’x3′ that was always at least half full of candy of all sorts. When I spent the night at Rick’s house, we would wake up early and walk to what I think was one of the first 7-11s. Either way, it opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 11 p.m. If we were up before six, we would play in the large pile of dirt in the middle of the construction site next door to the convenience store.

At the store we would buy a bunch of candy, take it back to Rick’s house, and add it to the candy in the cardboard box. After a couple of visits, I discovered that Rick had rules for the box of candy. Regardless of how much candy I put in the box, I could only take out one piece at a time. And not whenever I wanted to. I did not contribute to the stash of candy after that.

On one such sleepover, the two of us were in the short hallway between the reading room and the door to the rest of the house – which was closed. On the back of the door was a dart board. Rick was being cruel for some reason and would not let me have a turn at throwing darts. Which was not how I had been taught to treat a guest.

I protested for what seemed to me like a good while. Certainly longer than I thought it should take to get my turn at darts. Exasperated, I stood in front of the dartboard with my hands out, telling him I would not move until he gave me the darts. I was not all that confident after Rick told me if I did not move he was going to throw a dart anyway. The interchange repeated several times. Until he threw the dart into the palm of my hand. I stood there with a dart sticking out of my palm, staring at him in disbelief, asking him why he would do that.

“You should have moved,” Rick said as he snickered and shrugged his shoulders.

My hand did not hurt until after I pulled the dart out. Then it stung considerably. I do not recall staying at Rick’s house after that. I may have, but if I did, it was never the same. The trust was no longer present. Granted, I might have continued protesting without standing in front of the dartboard, but that was having little effect. Then again, he could have been a kind host and let me take a turn. He also never apologized.

I was beginning to learn that not everyone lived – or tried to live – by the golden rule. Or by “loving thy neighbors as thyself” as the Bible says. I was also beginning to be the recipient of looks and remarks when I stuttered. I had often heard people say that I would grow out of my stuttering. Since that was beginning to look less and less likely, people were beginning to assume that something was wrong with me. I was certainly not normal. While I was used to snide remarks and looks, physical pain at the purposeful hand of another was something new. As to the dart situation, it was difficult to ascertain which hurt more – my pride or my hand.

Through the years, I have seen, and heard of, people making a sheer mockery of the golden rule. I have also learned how difficult the golden rule is to follow. I have long since forgiven Rick. I do not even remember his right name or the pain of the dart in my hand. Regardless of the difficulty, I keep trying to treat others as I want them to treat me. But I keep track of my own candy and I do not play darts anymore.

Peace be with you.

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