One of the most difficult things to live through as a kid growing up is people teasing, bullying, and just outright being mean. I work with teenagers every day and some of the drama that is caused because one person said something bad about another person and their best friend heard it and wants to beat them up can wear me out by the end of a day. When I see and hear these teens being mean to each other it always reminds me of how I dealt with this horrible reality as a kid.
I was teased as a kid. Whenever I see high school kids bullying each other I make it a point to tell this story, sometimes as a class or to an individual depending on which is appropriate. I moved from a small town in Oklahoma to Oklahoma City when I was in the 6th grade. I was not really picked on until I made this move. I would say it was pretty nightmarish when I walked onto the playground at this enormous school on my first day. I made it to about the center of the grounds when I saw a crowd of kids walking toward me. The two that came right up to me where tall, big, and scary. The other 15 kids surrounded us as they made fun of my clothes, boot cut, bell bottom wranglers, and haircut parted on the left and slicked over and then threatened to beat me up. That’s right, not even there 5 minutes and I was being picked on and 15 by standing kids circled me like a pack of wolves waiting for the big dogs to take me down while they watched. A teacher saw this huge crowd of kids and broke up the party before it really got started and luckily the bell rang, for which I am grateful because I would have lost the fight.
I walked into the classroom that morning for my first class. Of course the kids that surrounded me and threatened me were sitting in the classroom in which I entered. Now, back in this day the song “Hot For Teacher” from Van Halen was a big hit, especially the video. The beginning of the video has a mom talking to her son, Waldo, before he enters the bus. She says she hopes he makes lots of friends this year and he replies, “Aw Mom, you know I’m not like other guys. I’m nervous and my socks are too loose.” How could I not be nervous walking into the classroom. I was threatened to have my butt kicked by two large students while 15 others watched just minutes before! While I looked around the room for a place to sit, a student said, “Sit down Waldo!” just like the bus driver, David Lee Roth, in the video. From that day forward, Waldo was my nickname. I did not remain at this school for very long before we made a big move to Washington State. Finally, the brutality was going to end…not!
My next home was going to be Cashmere, WA. This was a small town. I actually really enjoyed living there and made some really great friends. Unfortunately my nose grew faster than the rest of my face and within a short period of time when I arrived there I acquired the new nickname, Gonzo. I will not say very many negative things about this town. Other than the need for people to give each other horrible nicknames, I made some of the best friends I ever had at that school. Middle schoolers can be really bad about making fun of each other. I just really hated that it seemed no matter where I went there was something to make fun of or something about which to give me grief. I still managed to get into a couple of small conflicts because of teasing. After about three years of this school we moved to Wenatchee, WA. It was about a 45 minute drive from Cashmere where we lived.
When I was told we would be moving from the small town of Cashmere to the bigger city of Wenatchee, I freaked out a little. Last time this happened I almost got murdered, or at least beat up, by a middle school gang! This time I was going to do things different. I thought to myself that if I wanted to have no or very few enemies, not have people who wanted to hurt me, and not develop another nickname that pointed out my flaws, I would have to approach this school differently. I was going to kill everyone with kindness. I thought that if I said hello to everyone with an extended hand or a high-five, if I gave people reason to smile when I approached and met people with the idea that we had known each other for years, surely I would make friends. At this school I met my first girlfriend. She told me one day how nervous she was the first day I sat next to her and showed interest. I told her I could not understand why she would be nervous. She said that she thought I was popular. I could not understand how she could think that. I was always the loser, the butt of people’s jokes. She said, “When we walked down the hall today, I counted about 30 people who say “Hey!” to you or gave you a high-five, or smiled. You are also on the football team and everyone seems to know you. My plan had been working and I never knew it. Over the years, however, I became a somewhat rebellious youth, got caught up in drama, made poor choices that effected my schooling and social group, but I started off great because I went into that school with the right mindset. I was also very fortunate that one of my best friends from Cashmere ended up going to school with me in Wenatchee. He was one of two guys that approached me on the first day in Cashmere, not to pick a fight, but to welcome me and ask if I wanted to join their “gang.” No, not the kind that does bad things, just the kind that belong to each other as friends and really like hair band music.
Although these stories are from long ago, when I was a youth, the concept still holds true with me today. A fruit of the Spirit is Kindness. If we remain kind to people, approach them with gentleness and patience, we will turn away their wrath. Not everyone all the time, but you might be surprised how great your relationships can be by having this mindset. I have had adults be downright mean to me, after all, I worked in customer service for a while. One thing that has remained consistent is if I treat those people with kindness, even when they treat me poorly, conflict becomes resolved usually very quickly, or makes the other person feel at least a little shamed that someone would treat them so kindly even though they are acting harshly toward you.
So give it a try. If you feel that you have many conflicts in your relationships, try to kill them all with kindness. It removes drama, makes new friends, and brightens people’s lives. I had an aunt that could get me to cooperate and listen to what she said simply by whispering and being kind to me instead of yelling and becoming angry. Make it a challenge for the week. Treat as many people as you can, even…especially if they don’t deserve it, with kindness and see how your relationships with people will change. Maybe even try random acts of kindness. The result of this is always fun. Comment if you wish to tell your stories of kindness, even the seemingly failed attempts, so readers may be able to help with strategies and solutions to make things right. Peace to you all!