Peer Pressure

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By: Susan R. Johnson, M.D.
I was about 8 years old and playing in my front yard with a group of neighborhood children. There was a boy about my age and his older sister that dared me to lie down, face-up, in the middle of the street. They called me chicken when I refused to do it. I didn’t go out into the middle of the street. They called me chicken when I refused to do it. I didn’t like people calling me names and so I decided to take their dare  and go out into the middle of the street and lie down.

Well about 30 seconds later a car came around the corner of our street and literally slammed on its brakes in order not to run over me. The screeching brakes and blasting horn from the car made such a commotion that my parents (along with several other parents in the neighborhood) came running outside to see what was creating all of the noise. There I was about one foot away from the wheels of a car. Needless to say, everyone was sent home from playing that afternoon and all parents on the block got together to talk about what had happened. I couldn’t believe I had done something like that.

My father came into the bedroom to talk to me that night. “Dad” I said, “I am so sorry for what I did. I just wasn’t thinking. I just didn’t like anyone calling me chicken.” “Susan,” he said, “you could have lost your life today all because someone called you a chicken. “I know,” I replied.

My father proceeded to tell me a story, his story. He had been about 12 years old, and he was swimming in a pool with his friends. There was a contest to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater. My father took the challenges to heart and ended up staying underwater the longest. The only problem was that he didn’t come back up and had to be resuscitated by the fire department.

He said that experience had taught him to listen to his own heart and mind when making decisions about what is the right thing to do. My father also said that this was his second chance at life. A chance to serve others and do something good in this world. It is good to share our stories with each other.                                          

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