Our Best Friends
The Champions Amidst UsHARPREET SINGH
Most people laugh when I tell them I’m from Texas.
I don’t exactly fit the stereotype. You know, with the turban and beard and all.
In fact, you probably wouldn’t think that people from other communities in Texas would stand up for my faith. I didn’t think so either.
But in reflecting back on my childhood, I have come to realize that in addition to strengthening my character, my distinct identity helped me identify those who would support me.
Along with many other Sikhs, I owe a great deal to these unheralded champions.
I’ve often seen support come my way from a variety of unexpected directions.
For example, there was Ms. Lamb.
She was the fifth grade teacher in our elementary school who took us on a field trip to the roller skating rink. (Remember those?)
Her reputation as a strict disciplinarian didn’t always earn her the ‘favorite teacher' moniker with the students, but this trip to the skating rink changed my view of her.
When our class of 30 students arrived, the manager on duty informed us that there was a “no-hats", which he was interpreting as a “no-patkas-no-turbans" policy.
Although I was only 10 years old, I had already seen my fair share of discrimination by then.
Defeated, I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be skating that day.
Ms. Lamb, however, was outraged. After a heated discussion with the manager, she gathered the class and explained the situation. She suggested that everyone protest by boycotting the rink, and - it's a testament to her character - the young students whole-heartedly agreed.
I was shocked and humbled.
Her stand convinced the manager his policy was being enforced unfairly.
And the students ended up enjoying an afternoon at the skating rink.
More importantly, I gained my first lesson - and a first-hand one at that - on the concept of standing up for justice.
Ms. Lamb’s willingness to challenge the status quo serves as an example of her fortitude. Moreover, her support represents the many friends, teachers, colleagues, and even strangers that have taken a stand against religious discrimination, specifically against Sikhs.
While having a distinct identity in the context of America brings its unique challenges, it also provides ample opportunities, including the chance to identify those among us who will and do stand up for beliefs, even if they aren't their own.
Ms. Lamb’s courage, conviction and character inspired me.
We remain indebted to the countless unsung heroes who have stood up against injustice and provided support in times of need.
The author is a management consultant with The Monitor Group and specializes in helping organizations grow through innovation, marketing, and strategy. Currently living in Brisbane, Australia, Harpreet recently completed his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with his family and friends.
May 11, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Dave Boeckmann (San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.), May 11, 2012, 2:10 PM.
Harpreet, you always stand up for what is right! You don't let anybody get you down ... Coach Dave.
2: Rosalia (Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.), May 11, 2012, 5:28 PM.
What a wonderful story! Yay for Ms. Lamb and all those unsung heroes who challenge the status quo and speak up when something is not right. We need more teachers, adults, of Ms Lambs mettle, with the courage to be, and to set, an example, teaching her students that one must do the right thing for the right reason and even stand up for others in the face of ignorance.
3: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), May 12, 2012, 12:28 AM.
Ms. Lamb - a champion indeed. Politicians provide lip service but real champions like Ms. Lamb get things done! Bravo!
4: Shanimal (New York, U.S.A.), May 19, 2012, 9:21 AM.
Go Ms. Lamb! What a great story. Nicely written too. :)
5: Sim (Anandpur, Punjab), June 29, 2012, 4:52 PM.