Passing notes and throwing stones
The secret handwritten note, scribbled in pencil on a piece of notebook paper ripped jaggedly from a spiral-bound notebook, was folded in a special triangular fashion so as to tuck into itself. On the outside was written the name of the intended recipient, who happened to be in the second-to-last desk on the outside row, nearly totally opposite of where the note writer sat.
Once prepared in this manner for its surreptitious journey, the small epistle was passed furtively, to avoid detection by the keen-eyed instructor at the head of the classroom, to an ally in the adjacent row.
It made its way, passing through hands of classmates with knowing smiles on their faces, to its new address.
It was a game, really; an adrenaline-pumping challenge to elude getting caught “passing notes” in order to find out the answer to: “Do you love me? Yes or No.”
One could hope the inquiry would be met with affirmative action (checking the hoped-for box at the bottom of the note) and, as a result, that day’s recess would be much more exciting.
I am old enough to recall those more innocent times, when the only consequences of a note being intercepted by the teacher were thwarted elementary school “love” and an afternoon recess spent writing “I will not pass notes in class” several hundred times.
Essentially, the only living souls who really knew about the note were a handful of students and the teacher.
Boy, have things changed. Now, notes are “passed” via any number of digital methods, including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and a “bazillion” other smartphone applications.
The unfortunate thing is it’s so-called “adults” who are using these means to not only pass notes to others but to pass judgment upon others.
In a matter of moments, it’s not just a handful of classmates who are alerted, but an entire community and beyond.
Much of what is written “inside” these modern-day missives, torn jaggedly from the shallow minds of a social media-bound conglomeration of immature humans, is full of malevolent misinformation, gleeful gossip, repulsive rumor, and purposeful provocation.
The potential results of these activities are not just a missed recess but ruined reputations and scarred souls.
For some reason, people just can’t stand to simply leave it alone. They post and re-post misinformation (at best) and outright lies and vitriol (at worst) and readily chime in with their own uninformed opinions, often not having even talked to the person who is the subject of their rants or bothered to verify the reliability and trustworthiness of sources.
They don’t care to inquire after the truth, but derive some sort of satisfaction in getting “likes” from those who share their disdain.
As a newspaperman, I am naturally curious and want to know what’s happening. People often tip me off about things that are going on around town and it can be very useful for a news story.
However, people also speak or write to me about rumors and innuendo, dripping with the juice of accusation, scandal, and hearsay.
I am deliberately careful to respond to these people, “Now, just to be fair, you know I will do my best to investigate both sides of this issue.”
There usually is an inkling of truth to rumors. Nevertheless, even if something may be true, we still need to consider whether we will contribute to the problem or be part of the solution.
We should all be more caring and sensible when presented with personal information about people in our community, especially those we “love to hate.”
We need to humbly consider the old phrase “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” A related bit of biblical wisdom tells us, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Yes, passing notes has migrated to the masses through the power of social media. I just wish a stern schoolmaster was somewhere waiting with a dunce cap and a ruler to whack the knuckles of all the ignorant offenders.