Those People7:30 AM
But from Napoleon, the campaign mastermind? Nothing. He bossed people around. He was fussy like that. The college students, the nice lady who drove our white van, my fellow teenagers, they all couldn't stand him. We got back at the hotel each night with individual Napoleon Tales. Our leaders clashed with him all the time. With good reason. He thought only of himself and The Way It Was Supposed To Be - not the tired troops trudging behind him.
I got sick one night at headquarters while the football game was on and the pizza had arrived. I was just standing there, feeling miserable, waiting for my leaders to grab the keys to the white van, and he told me to get back to a phone. I stared at him stupidly and said nothing. My leaders rescued me from that potentially dangerous situation.
Frankly, he wasn't the kind of guy you'd ask out for coffee on a random Saturday. Despite being dark and massively handsome (and dressed in a sweater vest and tie). Girls, remember this when you drool over good looks in your special What He Must Be List.
Even so, I felt sorry for him, punted out of the social circle as he was. Come to think of it, he become very solicitous when he found out I was truly sick and not loitering. The littlest nice thing surprised him. We had cake to celebrate our awesome leaders (my brainchild/excuse to get out of phone banking for a Walmart run) and we gave him the first piece. He was speechless. Literally so.
I stuck up for him when people got on his case: "He probably just needs a hug. And he isn't that mean."
And he wasn't. I do not know whether his bossiness came as a result of rejection or resulted in rejection, but to me, he was too insecure to be truly arrogant and pig-headed. All bark and no bite, if you know what I mean. A campaign leader stopped to talk to him - or rather, listen to him - and she (being a mother) found out all about him being fresh out of college, a little bit more of who he was like, apart from the Napoleonic stereotype.
There's always going to be some people out there. Those people. The jerks, the idiots, the rebels, the annoyers, the grumps, the parasites. We think we've got them in the bag: run away from them, stuff them into negativity and oblivion, put your fingers in your ears until they go away so you can gossip about how much they get on your nerves.
Why is it that we serve scorn to the people who need love most?
The day of freedom came when we were normal kids and not superhero campaigners. That last day, I went up to Napoleon, the one everybody said was arrogant and rude and bossy. I thanked him, simply, sincerely, for letting a bunch of kids help out on the campaign. He didn't look me in the eye. He didn't know how to take the thanks. Me, just a little nobody - he didn't have the bravado to snobbishly say, "Yeah, no problem." No tough guy act here. He was a puddle of excited half-hope, boyishly peeking out from behind his insecurity.
I've never forgotten that. It got me thinking. I really don't think Napoleon planned, while brushing his teeth, to torture his campaign workers each day. I think he needed affirmation, and lots of it. And since nobody gave it readily, he stuck with going by the book, with going to the highest limit, with making his headquarters look the best...just so he could have some tangible evidence to prove he wasn't as vulnerable as his insecurity made him out to be.
I've worked with "bad" people. I've loved on unloved kids. I've befriended rebels. I've been one myself. I know what it's like to be that person. The people hardest loving are the people who need love most.
Got a Napoleon in your life? Dish him up grace and acceptance by the bucket loads. You never know how different a life can be until you change it.