Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words break my heart

little nobody

I heard the rain long before I saw it pounding on the roof inside Wal-Mart.  It was so loud people were actually looking up and around as if they might actually catch a glimpse of it.  When I arrived at the exit, pushing my grocery laden cart ahead of me, I just looked out in dismay.  This was no ordinary Florida afternoon storm, the rain was sideways and the parking lot already flooded.

Finally, I made it to the car, flip flops soaked and my umbrella threatening to fly away or pull my arm out of socket.  The wind was incredible.  Common sense was telling me I shouldn’t even drive in it; just stay parked and wait it out.  But, my body was saying “homeward bound”.  I eased out onto the highway about the time it appeared to slack up, or so it seemed.  As soon as I had accelerated and was progressing toward home, there came a deluge.

I saw a truck coming up fast behind me and as the driver began to ride my bumper, I put my blinker on, pulled over and let Mr. “I’ll probably kill someone with my driving” proceed.  I watched in amazement, although not too clearly as it was still pouring, as he passed vehicles ahead of me, when I knew he couldn’t see far enough in front of himself to do so safely.

As I slowed down and waited to see lights and a crash ahead, I thought about bullies once again for about the tenth time this week.  He was a “road bully”, the kind who wants to be in charge of the road and punish and taunt those who drive slower than them by racing by while shaking their head, as if they’ve accomplished some great feat.

Since my husband and I watched a movie on bullying the other day, I have been unable to shake the topic from my mind.  I don’t remember ever being bullied and I was taught not to bully people, or make fun of others for any reason.  My parents were very strict about that and I am thankful.

It seems like the traditional bully has changed into a whole new breed.  When I was in school, I remember a few and none of them fit the image of the one you see portrayed in older movies.  I don’t ever remember anyone stealing lunch money or beating someone up because they wouldn’t do their homework.

There was the “athlete bully”, who thought they were the best at everything sports oriented and would hog the ball and shove people around or criticize their efforts.  This person rarely had the grades or the motivation and dedication to actually play a sport.

There was the “boyfriend bully” who thought she got first dibs on any new guy at school.  If this poor unsuspecting creature ended up liking someone else, it was usually bad news for the object of his affection.  This gal rarely got the guy, but it was always someone else’s fault; it couldn’t possibly have been because jealousy and hatred marred her personality so.

There was always the “bully on the bus” who forced others out of whatever seat he wanted and made what should have been an uneventful ride home from school, miserable for several.  Fortunately this one was typically suspended from the bus before the school year was over.

I think in recent years, bullying can be so much more subtle and due to technology, sneaky and hidden.  Kids have grown smarter and teachers sometimes have their hands tied because if they try to discipline, they are often targeted instead of supported, which is sad.

The bullying now also seems to be more emotional and less physical in some situations.  Words can hurt just as much or more than a fist and their effects can linger a lifetime.  Whereas fighting is seen and punished (hopefully), words and looks can demean just as easily, with a much lower percentage of ever getting caught.  The bullies can easily recruit hateful, spineless minions who support them via Facebook, Instagram, Vine or whatever media they used to attack their victim.

Kids do unfortunately take to heart much of what is said to them or about them.  Their reactions and the damage others can cause, is often dependent on their personalities and their self-image.  Those of you with children know exactly what I mean.  That is why it’s so important that your own children or those who you know and care about hear your praise and know that they are loved and were created for a purpose; that they are unique and shouldn’t feel pressured to be like anyone else.

I wish we had all the answers, but we don’t.  What we can do is pray for the bullying to cease, pay attention to the children we love and watch for signs of it and take an active role in preventing it in any situation that you can.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  ― Desmond Tutu

The day fingernails won me over

I was a jealous little girl and I couldn’t bear the idea of not getting the lion’s share of the attention from any adults I might spend time with.  This was such a problem with me that I would plot and plan evasive little schemes to get to have my granny all to myself.  If my brother and sister wanted to go stay with her I would remind them that granny didn’t have television and they would miss their favorite programs.  Or, I would pretend that I wasn’t going after all and tell them what fun we would have, only to sneak out and go to her house before they had time to realize I was going.  I was often a sneaky, deceitful child in my dealings with them.

I remember one time granny seriously considered adopting a young girl and I was absolutely devastated and I let her know it.  Looking back, I realize how incredibly selfish and self-centered I was, but at the time I guess I didn’t realize that granny had enough love to go around.  There is no justification for my feeling this way; I was surrounded by people who loved me and let me know it daily.  However, I strive to be transparent here, and this is just the way it was for a long time.

You can just imagine my dismay when I learned that my uncle, who at the time was away at college, was bringing his girlfriend home.  A girlfriend?!?  Are you kidding me?  This just couldn’t be.  I could not allow this to happen.  My uncle had been one of my babysitters when I was young and he held a special place in my heart.   There just wasn’t room for another woman in the picture.

Somehow, in spite of my objections to her very presence on earth, much less with MY uncle, I managed to ride to the airport to pick them up on her first trip home to meet the family.  My little heart was pounding, and my mind was whirling with ideas of how dreadful she would be.  I don’t remember the exact details but I do remember that I ended up sitting next to her in the car on the ride home.  She was tiny and had quite the southern accent.  She had beautiful bouncy brown hair, a tiny splash of freckles and the most beautiful naturally long fingernails I had ever seen.  She let me play with her nails all the way home and looking back, I wonder if that drove her crazy at the time, if she hated it that I sat there pulling, probing and picking at her nails.

Needless to say, before we even completed the hour drive home, she had won my heart and has been carving out her own private place in it ever since.  Not long after that (I don’t think they were married when we first met, but my memory may fail me on that point) she became my aunt.  She has always shown me unconditional love and taught me a lot about marriage and family and my life is richer because she has been a part of it.  I know everyone in my family would agree.

It’s funny because her son and his family were visiting me this past weekend and during church one of his girls sat in my lap and begin to play with my fingernails and it brought back such a flood of fond memories. And you know what?  I didn’t hate it at all; it was precious.

Mitch Teemley

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