One day I was walking around the playground when I spotted that one of the children was sat on the floor crying. I thought I had better investigate.
"What's the matter?" I asked him.
"My drink's spilled all over me," he replied.
"Oh dear, what a shame," I said. "But don't worry too much, I can just pop inside and get you some squash."
"I'm sad because I was just drinking and then somebody came and pushed my hand so it went all over me," he elaborated.
"I'd better have a word with him, then," I said and he lead me to the culprit.
"Excuse me, I've been told you spilled this poor boy's drink all over him. He's awfully upset about it," I said.
He didn't hear me, or he chose to ignore me, either way, another MDSA nearby who saw what happened was very unhappy with this.
"Mr. Randall is talking to you!" she shouted. "Do him the courtesy of listening!"
"So what's this about you splashing his drink all over him?" I asked, now that I had his attention
"Yeah I did, but it wasn't like that!" he said, angrily. "I was just-"
"There's nothing else to it," said the other MDSA, "you have to say sorry."
"Sorry!" he shouted, very angry.
"A sincere apology would be nicer,"' I said.
But, sadly, he was too angry to apologise nicely and he stormed off somewhere instead, arguing with the other MDSA as he did so.
The boy who'd had his drink spilled seemed to be feeling a bit happier and so I walked off to continue patrolling the area.
About fifteen minutes later, I once again bumped into the boy who had spilled the drink onto the other. He didn't really seem to be angry anymore.
"I shouldn't have been in trouble," he said.
"Well, he was very upset and you can't just go around upsetting people," I told him.
"But he looked miserable!" he said, starting to become angry again. "I thought he could do with some cheering up so I splashed the drink on him as a joke to cheer him up, but he didn't appreciate it at all! It's not fair."
"What you need to remember is that, while an action may be grounded in good intentions, it doesn't mean that it can't have negative consequences. In those cases we have to take responsibility for our actions and apologise."
"I didn't understand a word you just said," he replied.
So, I explained it again, this time using simpler words, and he understood. He didn't seem to be angry about it at all anymore and I was very pleased that I successfully introduced him to this different perspective. I hope that he'll remember that for a while because that could potentially save upset for both him and others.
That's the reason I loved this job so much. I always enjoyed using a diplomatic approach to get children who hated each other one moment, to be playing peacefully the next. It was very rewarding. But, of course, while I miss the opportunity to do things like this, I miss the people most of all. I wasn't there very long, but I'll miss all the other MDSAs and, most of all I'll miss the children. The young writer I'd offer advice to, the girl who always called me her 'best friend', the boy who'd take me on tours of his imaginary farm, and all the others too. I hope the future is bright for all of them.