I logged onto Facebook this afternoon and saw a post on a group page of which I am a member. This is the post I read:
The boy you punched in the hall today committed suicide a few minutes ago. That girl you called a slut in class today, she’s a virgin. The boy you called lame, he has to work every night to support his family. That girl you pushed down the other day, she’s already being abused at home. That girl you called fat, she’s starving herself. The old man you made fun of ‘cause of the ugly scars, he fought for our country. The boy you made fun of for crying, his mother is dying. You think you know them. Guess what? You don’t.
Not your usual, “…just finished watching back-to- back The Office re-runs, lollollol…”, or other such trivial statuses one is used to reading on their home page.
The above highlighted paragraph was posted in response to a bullying incident at my daughter’s figure skating club, of which someone completely trashed the belongings of a skater belonging to a rival club who had come for a guest skate at our arena. The girl’s homework, shoes and personal items were ripped, shredded then scattered throughout the dressing room she occupied, all the while she was on the ice practicing for an upcoming competition. I was undoing my daughter’s laces on her skates when I first got wind of this unfortunate incident. I was a bit caught off guard to hear her skating instructor come into the dressing room after the practice and tear a strip out of the skaters, this after an arduous three hours on the ice. I quickly realized she meant business and there was good reason for her bellow. The coach let it be known, under no uncertain circumstance, would this kind of behaviour be tolerated. On the drive home, it was all the talk as to who might be the perpetrator and why.
I am reading that above paragraph again, and all the while I think of this young skater, as part of that group of victims. I can relate to this group: the boys, the girls, the old man, the skater. Because I was once a member of that group.
I was in Grade 6 at the time. I attended a small, private school. For many more reasons beyond an explanation in this blog, the majority of the kids in my school seemed to think they were better than me. It is true that I came from the wrong side of the tracks, I didn’t wear the right clothes and sometimes I did inappropriate things. But, I was just a kid. We all grow up sooner, rather than later, even though I was a bit of a late bloomer. I was not only naive, I was your classic nerd. I wore big glasses, had bad hair, and I often smelled funny. My parents did not have a lot of money growing up as my Dad was a minister. For anyone unsure what that was like, we shopped mostly second-hand stores and ate out only a couple times a year. But, I’m not complaining. I had a pretty good childhood, as lives go. I had two parents who loved me, a roof over my head and I was never in want of food.
But, sometimes, when you are a kid, the basics are just not enough. You get by on the basics, but it’s not enough to thrive on. Those times, when you are reminded of the harsh realities of life, are the times when just getting by is not enough to cut it. Sometimes a kid just wants to be like everyone else, have what everyone else has. Be less of an individual. Acceptance is everything to a kid.
I wore a yellow dress the day we were walking to the fire station for a field trip. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I remember getting inside the big, red truck, and looking all around the fire station. The day up to this point was mostly insignificant for its events, beyond this bare-bones description. It was the walk back that will forever be imprinted in my memory.
I was called down, laughed at, made fun of, snickered at and humiliated because of that ugly yellow dress. I was told I smelled. I was later, as days passed into months, picked on because of imperfections in my appearance. I was told that, “when God was passing out brains, Lori thought He said trains and said, no thanks.”
I am a mother now, and I untie my daughter’s skates after every practice. I thank God that life has afforded me the opportunity to give my children these and other blessings: food on the table, clothing to wear, occasion to live out dreams on the ice. She, and her siblings, are being raised to appreciate this as a privilege, not a right.
They have also been raised to believe that we are all the same inside; we all have the right to belong, be safe and be accepted as the handiwork of God, despite our differences. That is a gift that we have given our children. It is a gift that they will re-gift and pass on throughout their lives, if I have anything to do with it. As long as I have breath and the passion to urge them on, they will be preached this message.
And in giving this gift of acceptance and respect to others, they will free that little girl inside of me, and she will fly.