Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sticks & Stones

For the second day in a row, I have read a fiction book that stirred me, though this one for different reasons than the one I blogged about yesterday. It is another book I got a good deal on, Sticks & Stones. It is the second book in a Christian suspense series. The main character receives a note telling her that a body will be found at a construction site, and that "he deserved what he got, but it was an accident". The body turns out to be a skeleton of a teenager who had disappeared 25 years before.

It turns out that the boy had been a bully, and had bullied several kids in his neighborhood and school, so the police suspected one of his victims from years before.

I know the home school extremists who might read this, will use it for their "cause", but get real, bullies are everywhere. Schools, neighborhoods, playgrounds, church. I unfortunately, was one of those kids who was bullied. I can even pinpoint when it started. Fifth grade. A new kid for some reason singled me out. Throughout 6th grade, it wasn't too bad, just little incidents here and there. But then 7th grade came.

Looking back, I still blame sports. Most "normal" boys develop a fascination, and sometimes a seeming addiction, to anything sports-related. I did not. I'm not sure why, actually. I had several male cousins, though I was never around the ones on my mom's side much, but although I was around my male cousins on my dad's side, I was never close to. I can remember being teased by them and picked on by some of them fairly young. One of them would turn out to be one of my worst tormentors in high school.

I was the kid who always had his lunch, or things from it, taken - though as far as I can remember, they were always given back. I dreaded the teacher leaving the room, for I was always picked on by someone. One such instance resulted in my being held down by other boys while my cousin tried to stick a pencil up my nose.

No matter how quiet I was, and tried to blend in, they still sought me out. They would wait outside the door in winter to shove me into the snow. Most of the stuff I long ago tried to block out, and have succeeded with some of it, but looking back, I really can't pick out but a few boys - and girls even - who didn't bully me physically or verbally. Besides the abuse, there was of course the other things like my always being on the outside, and always being picked last in anything.

Some years back, they had a reunion for anyone who had ever attended the school. My sisters went, and couldn't seem to understand why I had no desire to go, but I have no fond memories of the kids I went to school with, only bad.

As I said, bullies are everywhere. I was a painfully shy kid when I went to Allegheny Wesleyan College. My college years were in no means as bad as high school, but even there, I ran into being picked on. It did get so bad at one point that an off-campus student who had seen some of it, went to the college president about it, and I finally got a reprieve.

One of my college mates used to do things to me, and said if I ever retaliated, he would take all the tires off of my car, and leave it up on blocks. He would have too. I don't know if it was a sign of what he would turn out like, but in spite of his having been a pastor, he ended up leaving his wife for a woman he worked with.

There are people who had it worse than I did. The book I read listed some websites, and I went to one called "Raven Days". There, I read stories of kids who went through some really bad stuff. They don't all suffer quietly. Some, like Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, get to a point where they can't take it, and take guns to their school mates. Others commit suicide to get away from it all.

It leaves scars. Deep scars. To this day, I have difficulty making friends, especially with other guys. I still have a hard time believing that people actually like me. It has affected where I have worked. I feel more at ease working with a bunch of women, then men. On the occasions where I did work with other guys, like at Hobby Lobby, I was actually surprised that they seemed to like me.

I think other things in my life can be traced to it, even things like my taking it too personally when people disagree with me, viewing it all too often as a personal attack. It has definitely affected my relationships. It has skewed my view of God severely, and that is one I am not sure how to ever get past. When you grow up believing that no one likes you, of course that is going to spill over into the spiritual, and you are going to believe that God doesn't like you either.

Looking back, I wonder why I never reached a point that I fought back. I did hear at church and school not to fight back, to turn the other cheek, and all that. How would my life have been different had I fought back? None of us can second guess life, but I do believe things might have been a lot different for me. I don't think I would have to deal with some of the things that I deal with on a daily basis, but there is also the danger that I would have turned out to be a bully myself.

I hate injustice, whether it is aimed at me, or anyone, and that deep hatred could be rooted in what I went through as a young boy. If so, that is one good thing that came out of it.

I think parents have a couple of responsibilities regarding their kids and bullies. First off, is to make sure they don't become one. Kids need to be taught that just because someone is different, or not into the same things they are into, does not mean they should be bullied and picked on. The other responsibility is to somehow help your kids to not be bullied. I don't think it is wrong to teach them to fight back, and not just take it. You can disagree if you want, but it is better than them growing up scarred and broken.

On a brighter note, I did get one apology from someone who was at least 3 grades ahead of me. A year or two after I had graduated from high school, I was at a camp in PA we went to yearly, and was approached by this kid, who had been out of school for at least 5 years or so. He apologized for the way he had treated me in school, and said he didn't really know why he did it. I told him it was probably brought on by my lack of interest in sports, and he said that was no excuse. I really appreciated his doing that.

Now, I don't have a "poor me" philosophy. I try not to think of my high school years, but yet, I live daily with the effects of it, so I don't know how to ever get totally beyond it. I just decided to blog about it, because the subject is important to me. Bullies do exist. Let's do all we can to help those who are victims.