When I was little, I was so shy that I could barely make eye contact with anyone, let alone speak to them…which made for some cute photographic opportunities (and quiet family outings) for my parents, but made it nearly impossible for me to make friends once I started elementary school…and it made me the perfect target for being bullied.
In kindergarten, there was a boy on my bus who delighted in telling me how ugly and “too small” I was every single day and made sure to sit in front of me so he could watch me cry all the way home. The bus driver would ask me if there was something wrong, but I was so shy that I wouldn’t even look at him, let alone tell on the “mean boy that broke my heart” and every day while I sat there listening to the insults and the never ending verbal abuse, I could almost hear the sadness in his voice.
In fourth grade, there was an older boy that used to come to the bus stop at the very last minute and find the smallest of us and push us down into the dirt right before the bus came so we either had to go to school with grass stains or mud caked knees or risk missing the bus if we ran home to change. His sole purpose was to be first in line at the bus and even when we stopped fighting him for the number one spot, he still found pleasure in throwing mud at us or “accidentally tripping us” on his way to the glorious first position. He always seemed so angry…and so happy to watch someone else hurting.
In seventh grade, we had to move in with my grandparents and I had to change schools. If you thought I was shy before, surrounded by children I had spent nearly my whole life with, imagine how horrible it was to go to a new school in the middle of the school year and not know a single soul. I immediately attracted the attention of the bulliest of bullies.
She would walk behind me in the hall between classes and kick the back of my knees. I said nothing. She would empty her lunch bag chip crumbs into my hair. I said nothing. She would glare at me from across the classroom and leave me notes under my books when I wasn’t looking that told me I “Better watch it.” I said nothing. I let her bully me.
I had been bullied so much by then – that I knew that this poor girl had to have some kind of anger or sadness living inside of her that made her want to make someone else feel as sad and angry as she did and though I found myself uttering the words “I hate her.SO.MUCH” – I could never shake the thought of what it must be like to be her.
When I grew up and had children and made a life for myself, I often wondered what has happened to those bullies in my life. I have found 2 of them on Facebook. They actually “Friended” me and sent me messages to tell me how sorry they were that they treated me so horribly as children. It was incredibly healing.
But the last one? The last one was a little different. I went to the grocery store one day with my little girl and found myself face to face with her in the cereal isle. I could never forget those eyes and how sad they were. She looked at me and instantly knew that I recognized her. She was a hot mess. She looked like life had only gotten worse for her (If that were even possible) and she looked at my amazing daughter who was happily waving at her and offering her a bite of her free bakery cookie and then she looked at me and burst out crying.
There I was, standing in the cereal isle with the bulliest of bullies from my childhood – wanting nothing more than to run over to her and hug her and tell her it was going to be ok.
We talked a while. She told me some things that had happened to her that made her the way she is today …and all of those years I spent “hating” this hurtful human being – were washed away and replaced with the urge to love her – because no one else ever had.
Today – instead of posting another FML status update on Facebook…how about you spend a few minutes finding someone on your “Friends” list that always seems to have nothing good to say, who always seems to be tearing someone else down, who always seems to be so angry about….EVERYTHING…and go say something good TO them and ABOUT them on their wall.
Sometimes those that bully us (or quite often…bully themselves even more so) – are the people that need someone to tell them how good they are at something, how strong they are, how beautiful they are, the most – because no one ever does – and so they spend their lives trying to make themselves feel better by tearing other people down.
Even if they don’t appreciate it – it will make you warm and fuzzy inside knowing that you tried to brighten someone’s day …even if a part of you feels like they don’t actually deserve such a random act of kindness.
Try it. See what happens. You may be surprised at the results.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dahlai Lama