I promised that I would share with you a bullying incident that happened to me. It is one that I haven’t thought about for a very long time. I was reminded of that awful day while watching 13 Reasons Why.
Winters in Michigan are brutal. I was a fifth grader at St. Bartholomew. It was December two days before our Christmas break. We always had outdoor recess. I liked recess because I would walk around, play hopscotch or tag. This particular day a group of kids that I thought were my friends asked me to play with them at recess. I felt happy while eating lunch. But then I was a little scared. Why would they want to play with me now? I am a believer in second chances. So I told them I would meet them on the playground.
Recess at my school didn’t include a fancy play structure. Recess meant use your imagination and creativity as you run and scream on the blacktop. We had to create a game to play. Or hope that someone brought a ball, jump rope or a hula hoop from home. I remember we created our own games.
On that day when I went outside, I found my friends to see what they wanted to play. Since it had snowed recently there were these huge piles of snow around the perimeter of the playground. I am not sure if we should have been climbing the snow hills or not. I found out quickly that this game we were about to play wouldn’t be fun.
A group of girls said we would play tag and race to the snow hills. I thought this was harmless. I was a fast runner, so I knew I would make it to the hill. I wouldn’t be the last one to get tagged. What I didn’t realize was once I made it to the snow hill. I was far from the winner.
At the snow hill there were other boys that joined our group. When we were kids we always played games where we would pull and push each other. We were just playing. It was all smiles and fun until the group of girls grabbed me and pushed me faced down in the snow.
Did I trip? Was it an accident? In my eleven year old mind that is what I was telling myself. It wasn’t until I heard the laughing and name calling of the other kids, as a crowd gathered around. I struggled to get up and free myself. But they held me down on the cold, icy, snow hill. I blocked this memory out of my mind for so long. Writing about it now still hurts but it is necessary.
The other kids from the other grades just stood and watched. No one helped me. All I could hear was the laughter and prayed for a teacher to ring the bell. I remember my glasses being foggy, so they couldn’t see my tears. All of a sudden everyone ran away. As I write this I am trying to remember if we had a recess monitor or not. Why didn’t anyone help me?
I went back to class that day and acted as if nothing happened to me. I did my best to focus. Thank God my school was across the street from my house. So I would be able to get home quickly. When I arrived home, I began my homework as usual. We ate dinner as a family. Then daddy went back to sleep, because he worked the midnight shift.
My mom was a seamstress and I remember going to the basement to her shop to talk with her. I told her everything that happened and she wiped my tears and prayed with me. It was that night that we decided that a change had to take place.
I finished out the remainder of school year. And I am actually glad that I did. These “mean girls” wouldn’t steal my joy. I loved my teacher and knew I was safe now. If something did happen again, I wouldn’t be afraid to speak up for myself. I’m not sure why these bullies targeted me. But I never allowed it to happen again. That horrible incident broke me momentarily. But it didn’t stop me. I hated myself for not fighting back, but that may have made situation worse.
Bullying doesn’t just occur in middle school and high school. I am not saying that the events that happened in 13 Reasons Why are happening in your local high school. Sadly, bullying starts in elementary school.
Tomorrow’s blog is personal and private. But with everything going on in our world today. We need to be aware of the signs of suicide. We need to acknowledge that mental illness affects more people than we know.