May 29th, 2009

Inspiration and knowledge can sometimes come from the most unexpected places.

Several people who influenced my life did it because their problems played on my sympathies. The very fact of my dealing with them caused me to pause and consider what it would be like to trade places with them. The Taylor brothers are an example of what I mean.

Ray Taylor and his little brother went to school with me. They rode the same school bus with me and brother Lowell. They lived not too far from our place. In today’s society Ray and his brother would be special education kids. Neither child had the mental capacity to function in the accepted “normal” society of that day. Because the state or federal government didn’t recognize the special needs of people like the Taylor brothers, they were lost between the cracks in a world that cared little about their problems.

The Taylor boys never missed a day of school. They always had clean clothes. Liberty overalls, homemade feed-sack shirts, and “brogan” style shoes. The clothing was old and patched but never dirty. Their mother waited in the front yard until she saw her kids off on the bus. She always cooked them something for breakfast and packed them a lunch in a brown paper bag. I reckon she didn’t have the money to pay the small cost of the lunch room program.

Those two boys were treated awful during the school day. I wondered if their mother had any idea of how much abuse her sons suffered at the hands of their school mates. I remember thinking that maybe the woman thought that continued exposure would make the boys “normal”. I wish for their sake that such had been the case.

My mom, bless her heart, taught me and little brother Lowell a lot about tolerance and reaching out to those we could help. My dad was of the same mind. He’d tell us that helping folks was as good for us as it was for those who received the help. With that thought in mind, I set out to try and help the Taylor brothers. The outcome of my decision was confusing to me. My mom said that such things sometimes result in a bittersweet outcome at the time. She claimed the true lesson and benefit may be years in coming. Looking back over my life I’m inclined to agree with her.

When I reached out to the Taylor boys I didn’t realize how much they would cling to anyone who offered even the smallest act of kindness. I was lucky to have had the Wideman boys and my brother to help me out. Lots of the Taylor tormentors switched their meanness over to me when I stood up for Ray and his brother. It went on for most of the school year but I did seem to win some people over, and the Taylor boys had a life with a little more peace as a result of our efforts.

It’s been oh so many years since I’ve seen the Taylors. I hope they are well and at peace wherever life took them.

To have lived and survived the life those kids had to live is a tribute to them and their sweet loving mother. I never met or saw the father of these boys so I cannot comment pro or con on him, but I do consider the rest of the family to be heroes in every sense of the word.

(This article was also posted at Old Duggy.)

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3 Responses to “Lessons”

  1. Amber |

    I think you did a great thing by being his friend and standing up for him. I would have done that. I do that a lot at my school. I know I feel great after I help that person and that they probably do also. I don’t know why people have to be so mean. I don’t understand why we can’t all just be nice to each other, is that too much to ask?

  2. Harvey |

    Larry you were a superhero as a kid but you probably didn’t realize it then. Your kindness and friendship did as much for the Taylor Brothers as Superman ever did for Gotham.

  3. Tom |

    Larry, I remember a few kids from my school days who had problems similar to those of the Taylors. Sometimes it was just a simple matter of poverty, not dressing as well as everyone else, not having the same advantages. I can’t recall that I stepped up in defense of any of these kids. I wish I had. It’s obvious that in your case being a man of honor began at an early age.

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