At what age is one's conscience fully developed? I can still recall that day when I was in the fourth grade, walking through the cafeteria, still able to visualize the configuration of the tables as if I'd just been there today. I was dressed in a red V-neck T-shirt, with a head full of frizzy, gray hair after my mom tried giving me highlights using a cheap drugstore kit, complete with a frosting cap. My insecurity was at an all-time high with my prominent adult teeth, gapped and strikingly oversized compared to my other features, at an age when fitting in was my main concern. I'd just dropped off my empty lunch tray before walking past a cluster of boys to line up with my class. The boys were huddled together when one of them called me over to their table. Inside my heart fluttered for the attention. The whole class watched as I accepted a milk bone they'd handed to me, wrapped discreetly in a paper napkin. To them, I looked like a dog. Back then "boys will be boys" was the excuse. Today I worry that society as a whole seems to have a dying conscience.
I share that story with my children so they know that words and actions leave lasting imprints. And they've become more sensitive since watching their own brother get bullied. The other day my oldest son, a seventh grader, told me he got a new bus driver. I brought up the recent news story I'd seen about three teens pulverizing another kid, while the bus driver called for help and stood by waiting as the viscous beating ensued. People praised the driver's actions. I'm not so sure I agree. I reminded my son that I expected him to behave and he answered, "We kind of have to because there are four cameras. Last year there was only one." How many cameras does it take to enforce a conscience?