At the end of church on Sunday, I learned that we had a case of bullying in our Children's Ministry this week. While speaking to the victim and the culprit, my mind returned to my own issues with bullying and the effects it has had on me. I am not proud of my response to my bully nor do I suggest this as an appropriate response to anyone reading. It is, however, a rather funny scene to picture.
My third grade year was a tough year for me. I wasn't very fond of my teacher since she didn't really want me to do anything extra when I finished my deskwork early. I always felt like I was a bother to her. I became further alienated from her when I had to have two teeth surgically removed from the roof of my mouth which led to nearly 6 weeks out of school and a hard knot that made speech challenging. (That's another story for another day.....too much trauma to deal with in one post.) Since I didn't think my teacher was particularly fond of me, I spent much of the year suffering at the hands of a bully that I didn't think I had any recourse against.
Sitting directly behind me every day was a nasty girl named Gloria Davis. She was larger than everyone else in the class since she had repeated several grades (I'll allow you to form your own opinions of what that says for this crazy girl's intelligence level) and knew that she was in charge. My problems began when she tried to get answers from my math paper. I didn't just cover my answers with my arm; I used the loudest voice I could muster to tell her to STOP CHEATING AND KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER. I knew that would get the teacher's attention and force her to address the issue that I had brought to the attention of the entire class. When Gloria got in trouble, I became Enemy #1 on her radar.
Gloria was tall and she was the girl that everyone in Crawfordsville Elementary feared. Quite simply, she was one mean, tough black girl. She wasn't all that pretty to look at either. Personally, I was convinced she wasn't human. I just knew that she was the bride of Satan. Gloria found everything in the world to tease me about: my clothes....my hair.....my parents......my lunchbox (a really cool Dukes of Hazzard metal box)....being the teacher's pet.
I don't remember exactly how I ended up in this situation, but I found myself standing outside one afternoon waiting for my mom to pick me up. No one else was around.....no one else except Gloria, that is! She began to taunt and bully me, telling me of all the mean things she had planned for me. By this point, I had stood all I could stand and I knew that it was time to stand up for myself. In my 3rd grade mind, I weighed all the possible punishments the teachers and principal could give me. I readied myself for a fight to the finish with this girl.
Gloria continued to threaten me, so I told her to leave me alone. Obviously she wasn't going to give up that easily. My fingers clutched the handle of my prized lunchbox because I was so mad! I screamed at her now. "I said to SHUT UP YOU N*****!" (I never claimed to be perfect.) With that primal yell, I swung the brightly-colored Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox at her head and landed it firmly on her temple. I saw her bend over in pain, but wasn't going to stand around and gloat. I ran inside the building to the music room where I found Ms. Keith, my piano teacher, whose classroom window overlooked the pick-up zone. We sat there together and waited for my Mom to arrive. Gloria came down the hall, blood streaming from her head, seeking revenge. Ms. Keith looked Gloria in the eye and dared her to make a move at me.
Later I would learn that Ms. Keith had watched the entire situation unfold and was ready to come to my defense if needed. Before she left the area, she told me that she cheered for me from her classroom when she saw the lunchbox hit its target. Ms. Keith never reported the offense and told Gloria that if she said anything, the principal would be told that I was simply acting in self-defense. For the rest of my third grade year, I never had any more problems with Gloria. Whenever she started her old ways, I would just raise my lunchbox and get ready to swing. I think she got the message that I wasn't going to live in fear of her anymore. Gloria tried to resume her reign of terror in later years. When I threatened to tell everyone how this tough black girl had been slugged by a wimpy white boy, she backed off. This story being told was more than her juvenile pride could take.
I've often wondered what happened to Gloria and if she even remembers the things she did to me. Honestly, I doubt she does. When I finally got to leave the nightmare that was Crawfordsville schools, Gloria was pregnant and headed nowhere fast. The only thing that I am certain of is this....my life became a success despite her torture and abuse. I have a sneaky feeling that the same cannot be said for her. In a way, I find vindication in that realization. So for everyone who has ever experienced trauma at the hands of a bully, I raise my lunchbox overhead and proudly tell you that my bully couldn't handle it when I decided I wouldn't be a victim anymore.