November 30, 2012

Standing up

When I was in elementary school, there was a girl in my class who was mentally disabled. For this post, I will call her Patty. She was the only special needs child in our class, and walked around with an invisible target on her back.

The kids were not kind to Patty. For a long time, I was her only friend.

One day, Patty's tormentors were being so cruel during recess, she was on the ground on the soccer field in the fetal position, sobbing. They stood around her in a circle, laughing. Then a few of them began to kick dirt on her. I will never be able to erase that memory.

When I saw what they were doing, I marched over, helped her up and stood beside her. I screamed at them that if they ever choose to be mean to my friend again, they would have to deal with me. I spun around, looking every one of them directly in the eye and pointing my finger at them.

I was the tallest kid in the class. By far. I towered over my classmates, especially the boys. Which was usually very awkward. In this case, it worked to my advantage and I used it. I was physically intimidating, which gave my threat the backing it needed.

One of Patty's worst tormentors was a little s--t I will simply call "S." He walked right up to me and challenged me. He attempted to look me in the eye, but was only half my height. I stood over him, hands on my hips, and glared.

I saw in his eyes he knew I meant what I said. That I was prepared to physically challenge him. And that I could easily beat him up in front of all his friends. He backed off.

I'm not going to say things were easy for Patty from that point on. The kids found more subtle ways to be mean. But some decided to give her a chance.

I don't mean to paint myself as some kind of saint here. There were times in school I was not always kind. I don't believe I was ever a bully, but I definitely engaged in some behavior that was less than commendable as a teen.

I hope to teach my child being different does not mean less than. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.

I want SB to be that kind of child. I hope when she has the opportunity, she will stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. And that if she is ever the one who needs the support, someone will stand up for her.

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