Bullying is a serious problem that can cause tragic results if measures are not taken to fight against it. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, more than 1 out of 5 students report being bullied in the US, which is more than 20% of all students.
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When I was bullied in First Grade, my Mom said: “You stand up for yourself and take care of this. However is up to you, but it’s YOUR PROBLEM, no one else’s.”
Hmmm, be careful what you tell a human being to do. They just might surprise you.
Now everyone in Catholic School in that day and age had a “book bag”. And, being a Catholic School, we always had heavy books to lug back and forth. I think that the good Nuns and Brothers had, as an article of faith, that carrying a big heavy book would impart knowledge by osmosis.
Any way, I was friends with the only black child in my class. Maybe that’s why I was singled out for all sorts of harassment. So the morning after my Mom’s “advice”, first thing, before we assembled in lines by class, I walked up to the biggest of my bullies and, without a word, swung my extra heavy book bag with all the oomph I could muster right “up the chute” to his crotch. Naturally, he went down like a rag doll and started to puke. One of the Brothers ran over and “arrested me” sending me to Brother Principal’s office. It was next to Sister Principal’s office. The Nuns coming by scowled, but more than one of the Brothers gave me a disapproving but wry grin.
My Mom was summoned. She, obviously was expecting something, because she didn’t go to work early like she usually did. So she arrives on scene and goes into the office with a bunch of Nuns and Brothers. After, what seemed to be a long time, I was summoned in. I thought I’d get expelled.
Brother Principal asked my if I was sorry for what I’d done. My mouth, leading its own life, said: “Respectfully, Brother Principal, No.” My Mom half smiled; the Brother who was my home room teacher, definitely grinned. Brother Principal continued: “Well, this is very serious. Will you do it again?” My mouth seized the opportunity: “Again, Brother Principal, with all do respect to you, my school, and my religious training, I can’t lie. Yes, I’ll do it as many times as I need to. But, between us chickens (my maternal grandmother’s favorite phrase), I doubt that I’ll ever need to prove that I’m no push over for any size bully.” Brother Principal was slightly taken back and said: “Well, with that reassurance, I’m inclined to let the matter drop.. Go to class and stay out of trouble.”
I felt ten feet tall.
Evidently, the bully was on “double secret probation” already, and after trip to the ER, a few days rest and home, he returned to school a week later. By the next week, he’d been withdrawn from the school and transferred to another parish school miles away.
And, I never had anyone “mess” with me after that.
I guess my “heroic aura” — or people thought I was bat shit crazy — encompassed the school because my friends, including the black one, were also hassle-free. In fact, the whole school was “bully free” for the three years I was at that school before we moved to the Bronx.
The lesson to me was like when first I heard that Rodney Dangerfield movie line from “Back to School” about the Dylan Thomas poem … “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”:
“Thornton, what does that poem mean to you?”
“It means… I don’t take shit from no one. I’m gonna pass this test. I’m stayin’ in school! Who’s next?”
I might be crazy but, I felt that way that day back in Catholic Grammar School. In the zone. (Whatever that is!) Whenever I’m in that “zone”, I think back to my first time in it and know I can do anything I want to, anytime, as long as Im willing to accept the consequences.
I later found a quote that sums it up.
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
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