Reggie liked to make funny faces and do silly things just to get his friends laughing and smiling. Reggie had one face though, that sometimes would scare his friends away. When Reggie got really angry, his face wasn’t funny anymore.
One hot summer day, Reggie went looking for his friends. He hoped that no matter what happened, he would be able to keep his angry face hidden away. He wanted his friends to like him, not be scared off by his anger.
As he came to the end of the block, he saw Carla, Elwood and Bruce just standing around. “Hi, what are you doing?” he said. Carla answered, “We can’t decide what to do.”
“Let’s go see if we can get some friends and play ball,” said Reggie.
“Play ball? You’ve go to be kidding,” Carla remarked. “I’m no good at playing ball.”
Reggie was frustrated, but he didn’t want his friends to know. So he stuffed his anger inside. But he could still feel it. And when he did this, his eyes began to get squinty.
“What about hide and seek,” said Reggie.
“I hate that game,” said Bruce, who was quite fat and couldn’t run very fast.
“I always lose.”
This time Reggie stomped his foot in anger, but he didn’t tell Bruce what he was feeling. And now not only were his eyes still squinty, but he could feel his ears getting bright red and hot.
Finally, with a pouty kind of voice, Reggie said, “How about all of us racing to the park and we can throw rocks in the creek.” He was a fast runner.
Elwood, who was also a fast runner said, “Let’s go.” So off they ran.
Elwood was faster than Reggie that day. And when Elwood beat him, he got very, very angry. His eyes were still squinty and his ears bright red and hot. In a loud voice he snapped, “You guys are no fun and I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
Bruce, who just got to the park in time to hear Reggie say this, said, “Reggie, you’re our friend. And usually you’re funny and we like to play with you. But when you stuff and stomp and snap, you change. Then we don’t like to be with you.”
With that, Bruce and Elwood and Carla walked away.
“Well, I never liked them anyway,” Reggie mumbled as he stomped around the park and scuffed stones with his shoes. “I’ll go to my secret place and play by myself.”
His secret place was in a little grassy spot behind a lilac bush next to the fence at the far corner of the lot behind his family’s house. When he felt like nobody liked him, when he didn’t understand his feelings, when he wanted to feel safe, Reggie would go to this secret place.
“Nobody will find me here,” he muttered. So he sat and sat and muttered and muttered. There was no one to make him frustrated, or hurt, or sad. But there was nobody to talk to either. He thought he would feel better, but he didn’t. He felt lonely.
Suddenly, he heard a noise. Somebody was nearby, just on the other side of the fence. He looked up to see Mr. Jones peering over the fence at him. Mr. Jones was retired, and he had a flower garden just on the other side. Reggie hoped Mr. Jones hadn’t heard him muttering.
“Is that you, Reggie? What are you doing here alone?” Mr. Jones asked.
“Just having fun by myself,” Reggie muttered and looked down at the ground.
“If you’re having so much fun, why do you look and sound so sad?”
“I’m angry and I want go to be alone,” Reggie replied.
Mr. Jones looked deep into Reggie’s eyes and said, “Sometimes when we get hurt or feel frustrated, we get angry. And sometimes if we sit on our anger, it can become red hot. And when we let our anger get red hot, we can do or say things that hurt people.”
“What do you do when you feel red-hot anger?” asked Reggie.
“My feelings don’t get red hot very often.”
Reggie was surprised to hear Mr. Jones say that. He thought everyone felt things the same way he did. “Why don’t your feelings get red hot very often? ” he asked.
“Because,” said Mr. Jones, “when I start to get angry, I’ve learned to talk about what I’m feeling.”
Reggie replied, “When I get angry, I stuff and stomp and snap.”
Mr. Jones reached down to pick off a dead blossom from one of his flowers, “Does it help you to stuff and stomp and snap?”
“It doesn’t,” Reggie admitted.
“And how do you feel when your friends don’t like you?”
“I feel hurt and sad. And then I feel mad.”
“So, sometimes when you feel mad, it’s because you first felt hurt and sad?” asked Mr. Jones.
“I guess so,” said Reggie. “I had never thought of that.”
“Well,” said Mr. Jones, “if stuffing and stomping and snapping don’t help, what else could you do that might work better?”
Reggie didn’t know how to answer.
Mr. Jones turned to go. Next time you want to stuff and stomp and snap, tell your friends what you feel and see if that helps.
Next day, Reggie went by himself to the park to throw stones in the creek. He saw his friends having a wonderful time at the other side of the park playing hide and seek. He went over to them and hoped they would invite him to play. “Hi,” he said. They waved back, but continued with their game. They did not invite him to play. Reggie felt really hurt inside. He felt sad.
When Elwood saw that he was sad and not mad, he called, “Reggie, would you like to play with us?”
“Sure,” said Reggie. But in his eagerness to get to his friends, he slipped in the mud at the edge of the creek and fell in. He had mud all over. He heard his friends start to snicker. When he stumbled toward them, they laughed even louder.
Reggie was embarrassed that he had fallen in the mud. He didn’t like his friends laughing at him. He felt his eyes grow squinty and his ears get red and hot. He snapped. But this time he said something different. “It doesn’t feel good to be laughed at!”
“We’re not making fun of you. We thought you were being silly again.”
Reggie looked down at himself. He did look pretty funny. He began to laugh at himself. It felt good to laugh instead of stuffing or stomping or snapping.
Then they all went back to their game of hide and seek.
By Gary Oliver, adapted by Ron Flowers*
* Materials from Hip Hop and His Famous Face , Chariot Victor Publishing, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Chariot Victor Publishing.