Commentary

Snow: We all want sprinkles on our ice cream

August 10, 2013 

Since the Trayvon Martin slaying, there has been an unprecedented amount of discussion about the increase in violence across the country. Theories abound as to the causes of so much violence in today’s culture.

One even suggests that violence is inherent. I think violence in many cases is simply born out of frustration. I cite an example.

My friend Keever and I were having coffee at our Chick-fil-A hangout that is a quiet, ideal setting for solving personal and societal problems.

In the booth behind me, a little boy of about 2 was raising Cain with his mother. Obviously, his world was not to his liking.

Suddenly a missile sailed by me, missing my head by only inches. It was a half-filled baby bottle that landed with force beyond our booth.

Seconds later, the lad’s mother led him past us, gently smacking his bottom as they went.

“Please don’t spank him. No harm done,” I laughed. She didn’t reply as she pushed him inside the restaurant’s play room.

Put yourself in the little fellow’s sandals. Imagine living in a world in which your primary view is that of other people’s kneecaps. Imagine being unable to voice your concerns except through gestures and wails of discontent. When those don’t work, you sometimes throw things, i.e., your milk bottle.

I remember when my grandson was about the same age, and I was treating him and his two sisters to ice cream at Fat Daddy’s restaurant. The older children ordered their ice cream, and Wade was able to point to his favorite flavor.

But when he was handed the cone, he refused it and threw himself on the floor and began screaming and kicking, attracting the attention of other diners.

I translated their moving lips to read, “Why doesn’t he get that spoiled brat out of here and warm the seat of his pants?”

I understood. I’ve felt the same way in the company of many other little people having a bad hair day.

“What’s wrong? What does he want?” I asked his sister Charlotte in desperation.

“He wants sprinkles on his ice-cream,” she said calmly.

The ice-cream dipper reached for the boy’s cone and laid on a couple of big dollops of sprinkles. Peace and silence prevailed.

Can we transfer this little vignette to the adult world? To some degree, yes.

Imagine being out of a job, with a wife and kids to feed and clothe.

Imagine the rejection responses to your many job applications. Imagine the feeling of humiliation at not being able to provide the bare necessities of life.

Sure, we have the so-called safety nets: food stamps, unemployment checks and so on. Sure, some get by on those and choose those alternatives over working.

The N&O recently reprinted an article from the Palm Beach Post describing Florida state Sen. Dwight Bullard’s efforts to live for one week on the minimum wage.

He calculated that at $7.25 an hour, he had $52.62 to spend on food, transportation and entertainment for the week.

He bummed rides to work and elsewhere. When attending social functions with food, he pigged out so much, people noticed and commented.

“I’ve been completely taken aback by all the little things I’ve had to give up,” he said.

By Thursday he was again facing Honey Nut Cheerios for supper. No sprinkles.

The dictionary defines frustration as “the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.”

Frustration is the godfather of violence. Being locked within their own limitations, either by their own fault or by fate, often causes people to lash out violently.

When it seems that everyone else is enjoying sprinkles except you, to some, violence seems the only solution. It’s often difficult for us to realize that problem.

As they were leaving, the mother and the little boy stopped by our table and she apologized for her son’s conduct. He and I exchanged high fives. As he toddled off, he turned and smiled brightly.

Obviously some form of sprinkles had improved his view of life.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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