I need you to imagine an angry, angry sixth grade boy. He’s having a hard time adjusting to middle school, he keeps getting in trouble in his classes, and he’s just gotten scolded in PE. He isn’t able to control his anger and storms away, yelling. I find him sitting in a staircase, yelling “This is BULLCRAP!” and punching the wall. We decide to walk silent, sullen laps around the building together, since he clearly needs to cool down before we’re having a productive conversation.
I also need you to imagine our campus security guard. He’s the most enormous man you’ve ever seen, covered in tattoos, and employed by the police department. He used to work in prisons, is intimidating enough to manage a prison yard, and knows everything about local gangs. He’s also really nice and really helpful and really respectful to kids.
As we’re wandering the building, Angry Boy and I bump into Mr. Security, who comes over to make sure we’re okay. In a cheery voice, I tell him that we’re just having a bad day and needed to take a walk. Mr. Security reads the whole situation, gets the angle I’m taking, and smiles at Angry Boy.
“A bad day, huh? Do you need a hug?” Mr. Security holds out his arms, trying to bring in a little humor. Angry Boy scowls and looks at the floor. Keeping up the cheery act, I comment that he definitely needs a hug.
At that, Angry Boy looks over at this enormous man with his outstretched arms and does the unthinkable. Without any warning, he drops the tough guy act and walks right into Mr. Security’s hug. He puts his little arms as best he can around this man, and they are suddenly legitimately hugging. No irony, no humor, no resistance. My little ball of fury is melting right into this gang expert. My jaw hit the floor.