Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Yesterday my two oldest girls were telling me about an incident at their middle school. Apparently a group of kids decided to bully one of the school janitors who has some disabilities. There was a schoolwide announcement made that the bullies could turn themselves in and receive a lesser punishment or wait to be discovered by the school and be dealt with more severely.

I hate hearing stories like this. I much prefer living in my little bubble where I believe that the world is good and people with disabilities are treated with love and respect.

Part of my anger upon hearing of the school incident stems from the fact that I have a tender spot for those with disabilities. You probably don't know that if I had graduated from college my degree would have enabled me to be a teacher in a special needs classroom.

But the deepest, darkest part of that anger is derived from my own days at school where I was the target of bullies. These are times I still prefer not to speak of - the feelings and emotions they dredge up are still tender and difficult. Because of this I do not and will not tolerate bullies.

You know the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"? Rubbish.

I prefer physical pain. Physical pain is tangible. Physical pain can be soothed or fixed. Throw a stone at me. Hit me with a stick. It will hurt for a while but the pain will eventually go away.

Not so with the emotional heartache and pain that come from name-calling and teasing. This is intimidation and endless torment. This is anguish in its purest form. This is the power of words.

Because of what I was forced to endure throughout elementary and middle school I have developed what I call 'super empathy'. I can not see or hear of an injustice such as the incident at my girls' school and not want to do something about it, yet I often feel powerless to do so. Which brings about this question: what can I do, really?

I can persuade. I can educate. As difficult as it may be, I can share my own stories and hope they make a positive impact. I can raise my own children to seek out those who could use a friend- to understand that those who are labeled as 'different' are really very much the same as anyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

As the saying goes, I can be the change I wish to see in the world.

And I can work on that every day... and hope it makes a difference.


pam said...

Amen! As you can imagine, I have NO tolerance for those who tease or abuse the disabled.

Sounds like we both endured our share of name-calling, eh? So glad those days are over. I live in a similar bubble and can ignore it now!

Happy Hubby, JJ, Bugs, Nenie and Sadie Jo said...

Gerb, I am so sorry that this incident brought back painful memories, I understand the pain too. The sound of one girls name from high school still sends chills down my spine. I tried to be optomistic and think that she changed after 10+ years but she hasn't. Once a bully always a bully.

The thing about this story that I find good is that your girls recognized the bad behavior. Appearently your doing a good job raising your kids to be who you want them to be.

Your a good person. :)

simplysarah said...

Love really is the answer, isn't it...

I've been known to bully. Sometimes, that part of me still makes a surprising appearance.

So I am grateful for people like you who emanate goodness and share insight and love and make me want to be better. :)

Farscaper said...

I have found that anyone "different" from what the world considers to be "normal" tend to attract bullies.

I was always the tallest person (not just girl) people knew until I hit college. 4th grade I was the tallest PERSON in the entire school (taller than all the teachers).

My bro being deaf seemed to wear a target on his back. My other bro and I were always coming to his defense.

I've found that it never ends... I have trained my kids to tolerate the "unique" behavior of one of my kids because he doesn't understand life like everyone else does. I can't train everyone else's kids. I have found that either other kids have never ran across a "special needs" person so they just don't know how to act or their parents just haven't taught them the old saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." It really hurts me to hear some of the comments that come from some children's mouths.

I'm telling you this to let you know that I TOTALLY understand your "hatred" of hatred.

Even though I have a pretty major anxiety disorder.. At times I have been able to put it on the back burner long enough to tell someone to "knock it off".

Sorry for the novel. I did not intend to do so. Powerful subject for me too.

Teachinfourth said...

As I read over your post I felt a wave of anger. I too, have no tolerance for bullying. Too often I, or others I've known, have been the targets of others' acidic remarks.

Anonymous said...

Eloquently said. Reminds me of many a raised voice episode in my high school classroom--pretty much the ONLY topic that caused good ole Miz White to go ballistic.

Sister Pottymouth said...

I know said janitor--I've been around him while monitoring the halls during lunch. He's a wonderful man who does a great job at the school. It makes me sick to think that anyone would be so unkind to him.