Monday, June 2, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: TOM (SHADY DEL KNIGHT) MEETS THE WELCOME WAGON

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Our BULLY FOR YOU guest post for today comes from a true gentleman by the name of Tom Anderson, but in the blogosphere he's better known as Shady Del Knight of Shady Dell Music & Memories. Tom's compassion is always evident on his blog and in his comments. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the memories Tom recounts in Welcome Wagon didn't contribute to his empathy for others.
Thank you, Tom Anderson.

WELCOME WAGON

My 5th birthday was approaching when my family moved from a rural area to the suburbs in 1954.  To my delight I soon found a boy my own age in the neighborhood and we became friends.  One day my friend and I decided to explore a nearby park with a stream running through it.  We were following the stream searching for crawdads when I looked up and noticed a group of five older boys advancing toward us.  I soon noticed that the tribe of fierce looking young warriors was armed with what appeared to be foot long sections of rubber garden hose.  The leader of the pack was Ross, a boy who lived a few houses up the road from me. 

I flashed back to the first time I had seen Ross.  He was playing in his front yard one day as I rode past in the car with my father.  Dad beeped the horn and we both waved to Ross.  Remarkably, Ross seemed to regard the friendly gesture of two strangers as a threat.  Instead of reciprocating, he darted behind a bush and peered through the branches until my dad and I were a safe distance up the road.  The incident left me with an uneasy feeling about Ross.

Now, here we were, Ross and I, face to face in the park.  For some reason he had been motivated to organize a Welcome Wagon committee and lead a march to the park to confront me.  Ross told my friend he was free to leave, explaining that the business at hand did not involve him.  My friend promptly ran from the park and vanished over the hill.  Smelling my fear and savoring the power he had over me at that moment, Ross declared that I was trespassing on his territory.  Charged with the crime and found guilty, it was time for me to face the punishment phase of my ordeal.  Ross and his posse surrounded me and began beating me about the arms, legs and torso with their rubber clubs.  The attack seemed to go on forever and my body was soon covered with welts.  Suddenly the assault ended and Ross and his pals scattered.  I looked up the hill to see my older brother and his buddy running to the rescue.  They had been alerted by my friend who had the presence of mind to run to my house and summon help.  The welts healed but that traumatic incident left the inevitable emotional scars. 

Reflecting on the events of that day 60 years later, I believe my list of sins went beyond trespassing on Ross's turf.  I was also guilty of living in a new house that was built on a corner lot at the end of Ross's street, eliminating what had probably been a convenient playground for Ross and his friends when they didn't feel like walking the extra block to the park.  I was also guilty of having a dad who loved me and spent a lot of time playing games and sports with me.  Ross's parents were separated and his father, who lived across town, didn't spend much time with him.

I often wish I could rewind that mental movie and have Ross smile and wave back at me that first day.  It could have been the start of a great friendship rather than a very painful memory.


CLIFTON

A couple of years later Ross and his disciples found a new target, one who didn't have a big brother watching his back.  A boy named Clifton moved into the neighborhood and I befriended him.  Three years older than me, Clifton was stricken with Cerebral Palsy.  He wore thick lens glasses, walked with a severe limp, was mentally retarded, had difficulty pronouncing words and suffered frequent seizures.  During those episodes, which lasted the better part of an hour, Clifton's legs turned to jelly and he collapsed wherever he happened to be - on the ground, on the road or inside someone's home.  If he was fortunate enough to go down in the presence of people who knew who he was and where he lived, they would call his uncle to pick him up and take him home.  If Clifton was alone or among uncaring strangers, he was stranded for the duration.  

Clifton was gregarious, eager to make friends, but he was different and different made people uncomfortable. Most residents of the neighborhood regarded him as a pest and shunned him.  Parents who treated Clifton with apathy set a poor example for their children.  No wonder kids considered it acceptable to pick on him.

Clifton and I were playing at the park one day when Ross and his chums arrived and another ugly scene unfolded.  I was wrestled to the ground and pinned by a larger boy who sat on my chest.  Ross, resembling a boot camp drill sergeant, stood a few inches in front of Clifton mocking him, ridiculing him and calling him names that included cripple, moron and queer of the year.  As Ross delivered his cruel insults, another boy crept behind Clifton and got down on his hands and knees.  When Ross finished reciting his litany he pushed Clifton, causing the handicapped boy to take a nasty tumble over the other boy's back.  Clifton landed in a heap.  His glasses flew off his face and broke.  His clothes were left dirty, wet and grass stained.  The gang members laughed and exited the park.  I ran to Clifton's house, informed his uncle and rode back to the park in his car.  Discovering that Clifton's glasses were broken and his clothing soiled, the uncle scolded and shamed Clifton, as if what had happened was his fault.
Sadly, what transpired in the park that day was not an isolated incident.  Clifton's life has been plagued with similar episodes.  I visited him in jail at Christmas 1983 after a woman had him arrested for peeping in her window.  She incorrectly assumed that people with Cerebral Palsy are perverts with overgrown genitalia and libidos to match.  She got it all wrong.  The truth of the matter is that Clifton, a man with the I.Q. of a child, saw a window and looked through it because that's what windows are for.  He did not know the difference between right and wrong.  He was merely doing what he has spent his life doing - searching high and low for a friend.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Tom. I consider myself blessed to count you among my friends.

I hope you'll all take the time to give Tom some love in comment form, and please consider visiting his blog at Shady Dell Music & Memories.

If you were bullied, do you think it made you kinder and more empathetic?


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


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42 comments:

  1. My son Chris had a similar problem. He was a gentle giant - always big for his age - but never used it against anybody.

    One night when he was in third grade, I questioned him about a nasty bruise on his abdomen. "Oh," he said - "That's where Sean (not his real name) hits me every day so I can play on his team." When Chris told the playground aide, he was accused of tattling and punished by having to stand against the wall for the duration of recess.

    Well, when my husband heard about this, he said he and Chris had to have a little talk and went outside beyond my sight.

    The next day I asked Chris how recess went that day and he said "Great, Mom!" Apparently my husband showed Chris how to defend himself and when Sean approached him with the usual demand, Chris decked him - without the playground aide being aware of it.

    After that the two became good friends and were an unbeatable pair on the basketball court and soccer field. I didn't approve of the violence, but it appeared justified this time! For that bully, he only understood one language!

    It would be interesting to know what became of Ross and his posse. I wonder if anyone other than your brother ever stopped him in his tracks. Bullying is an age-old problem that rarely gets reported, enabling further abuse. In your case, Tom, I think your experience made you more sensitive and only deepened the friendships yet to come.

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    1. It makes me so sad when "tattle-tales" are punished for trying to protect themselves and others.

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  2. I started crying as I read your post. Thank God that you survived and that you are able to tell your story, so that maybe somebody else will be helped. And thank God that you had a friend and that you were a friend to somebody else.

    As horrible and traumatic as those things were, I have no doubt that they shaped you into the person that you are now. Strong, caring, and a friend who does not judge, from what I read in your post.

    Thank you.

    Love,
    Rachel

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  3. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sharing your stories. It was hard to read about the the flogging you got as a kid and how it made you feel awful. I trust you can really put it behind you now as awful as it is, I know. Emotional bullying can be just as painful as physical, however the key is to brush yourself down, pick yourself up and carry on.

    Know in yourself it's roguish behaviour at play and usually absolutely nothing to do with you. Success is the best form of revenge - LOL - keep safe and thanks to Janie for posting - yours at writing the rapids

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  4. What touching memories. It's amazing how quickly children form friendships and accept others, once they give them a chance.

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    1. They are touching memories, and Tom writes so beautifully.

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  5. What a great guest blogger! I love Shady's style and character - he is a true gentleman. Looking forward to reading more on your blog, JJ! I like your style.

    Regards,
    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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    1. Thanks so much. I signed up to follow your blog by email.

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  6. Tom is one of my first blogging buddies, and never has there been a truer friend. My heart was in my throat reading his accounts, and by the end my blood was boiling. Tom writes so well and you are right, his empathy and compassion show through in his posts, I can see he's had it all his life. It makes me proud to be called his friend.

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  7. Dear Tom, both these stories tug at compassion's heartstrings, but the second one truly does illustrate what you said--that people, not only children but adults--are offended by differences. Everyone needs to cut from the same mold if they are to be easy to understand. And so many people want to be able to pigeon-hole and not think. Thank you for sharing these painful memories. Peace.

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  8. Gripping anecdotes!

    I'm not sure if any of my experiences being bullied made me any more compassionate toward others. I'd like to think so...

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  9. The uncle scolded and shamed Clifton? Unbelievable...

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  10. Hello Janie J.! I'm a friend of Tom , a.k.a. Shady and a frequent commenter on his blog, SDM&M. Unfortunately, we've all been bullied at one time or another--some more extreme than others. Thank God more schools are taking action with this matter and giving a zero tolerance for it. Tom's story is so sad but, from what I'm told, the "Bully" usually has deep issues within himself/ herself and this is their way to act upon it.
    Tom, being the gentleman and compassionate person that he is--even in his younger days, befriended the "underdogs" or handicapped people. His love for everyone is prevalent even in the blogging world. I happen to know "Clifton", being from the same hometown. I too, have seen him bullied even in recent years. He is and was a poor soul just searching for kind words and a smile. We all could learn and little from people like Tom A (and "Clifton")!
    Toni Deroche

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    1. Any friend of Sir Shady's is a friend of mine.

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  11. Thanks, Shady, for the story. See you on your blog.
    Hi Janie. Off topic, Nurse Jackie was "approved" for another season.
    Bye.

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    1. You rock, Nurse Jackie -- and you, Susie.

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  12. I'm always saddened by how cruel people can be to one another. Good for Tom.

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  13. Tom, your stories affected me deeply. I know from experience how violence to a child can hurt for life and destroy trust. But I also know experiences like this can make a person compassionate. You are a kind and compassionate person which is a great gift in this world. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  14. Kathleen - I agree with JJ's reply. What kind of society are we creating when people in authority, whose job it is to supervise, educate, counsel and protect our children, punish victims of bullying when they report it? I'm sorry to know that your son was forced to fight fire with fire, but it yielded a positive outcome when mutual respect was achieved and they became friends. Thank you very much for staying up late to comment, dear Kathleen. I appreciate it and I know Janie does also!

    Rachel - Thank you very much, dear friend! I often wonder what would have happened that day if my young friend had been too frightened and intimated by those older, larger boys and had simply run home without summoning help for me. How much longer would the beating have continued? Something inside that little boy prompted him to do the right thing and summon my older brother and his buddy. Thank you again for your sweet and loving comment, dear Rachel. I hope I get the opportunity to connect with you again.

    Allie-Millie - As a child I never cried when I hurt myself. If I took a spill on my bicycle, skinned an elbow, scraped a knee open and was bleeding, I did not cry. I only cried when I became emotionally upset. I cried that fateful day in the park, not because of the flogging I received, but because I didn't understand why it was happening. What had I done to deserve it? I was new to the neighborhood and eager to have friends. Why were these boys rejecting me and even going so far as to administer a beating? I think you're right. It was mostly because they were young men coming of age and feeling their oats. They were acting out, pretending to be warriors going to battle. Perhaps I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. They "separated me from the herd" and attacked. Thank you very much for visiting Janie's excellent blog, Allie-Millie, and for your generous comments!

    Stephanie - I became the only friend Clifton had in our neighborhood. Around that same time, when I was in first grade, I befriended the only black student in my school. He was one of the nicest boys I ever met, yet most other kids shunned him. Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream about a day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I am proud to say that my black school chum and Clifton, the neighborhood boy stricken with Cerebral Palsy, were two of the best and most loyal friends I ever had. Thank you very much for your comment, dear Stephanie!

    Cherdo - Hello, dear friend! I am very happy to play matchmaker and bring you and Janie together. You are both prolific and terrific - among the top movers and shakers of the blogging world. I'm glad you enjoyed my guest post and I hope you will visit Janie's blog again soon. Thank you, dear Cherdo!

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  15. Shelly - Dear friend, I can't read a message like yours without my eyes filling with tears. Blog friends are real friends and you are as real as they come. I genuinely love and respect you, Shelly. As I wrote these two stories for Janie I was transported back to those events in the mid 50s. It made me sad to realize that those were "the good old days" compared to now when bullies no longer push, shove and beat people with rubber batons. They stab, spray automatic gun fire and build explosive devices in their bedrooms. Some mercilessly and relentlessly torment their peers via social media. Ironically it is often "best friends" that turn on each other and become mortal enemies. Society is scrambling to keep up with ways to control bullying in all its modern forms. All things considered I am thankful to have been a child of the 50s. Thank you very much, dear friend Shelly, for being such a great friend to Janie and to me. Bless you!

    Dee - Hello, dear friend, and thank you! Isn't it amazing how so many people claim to be bored with the sameness of their lives and yet pull away from people who are different? One would think they'd jump at the chance to mix things up, teach and learn, stretch and grow. Yet, most people want to remain "comfortable" even if it means missing out on potentially rewarding new experiences. Enlightened bloggers like Janie Junebug are doing their part to break down the barriers that separate people. What the world needs now is more of what you see right here on Janie's site. Thank you again for your comment, Dee. I hope we meet again, my friend.

    The Silver Fox - Thank you for reading my stories. Janie caught me off guard when she suggested that my close encounter with the Welcome Wagon might have contributed to the empathy I feel for others in my adult life. I can tell you this. When I run that movie through my mind I feel compassion for the frightened little boy that I was that day. I wish I could jump into the movie and protect him. Remembering the events of that day leaves me with an intense determination to find peaceful solutions to the widespread problem of aggressive behavior, not only in today's young males but in girls. Thank you once again for your visit and comment, Silver Fox. I hope to connect with you again sometime, my friend!

    Blue Grumpster - That is correct, my friend, sad but true. For reasons I won't divulge, Clifton lived with his aging aunt and uncle. They encouraged him to get out of the house for long periods of time so that they wouldn't have to deal with him. They obviously resented the interruption when he had a seizure and collapsed and they had to drop what they were doing and fetch him. It was even worse that day when he broke his glasses because they had to bear the expense of buying him a new pair. In a very real sense the aunt and uncle bullied Clifton, too, although I'm sure they didn't do it intentionally. They were simply at the end of their rope, overwhelmed having to care for him 24-7. Thank you very much, BG, for sharing your reaction to my stories today. Take care!

    Toni - Hello, dear friend! Yes, I am well aware that you know "Clifton" because you and I have discussed him often and you know as well as I that he has been a fixture in the York community since the 1950s. The Dell rat philosophy has always been to love and support the underdog. In the Dell's dance hall, we turned unknown performers and their obscure recordings into huge hits. John and Helen Ettline were themselves underdogs because parents, teachers, clergy and police regarded their hangout as a "den of iniquity" and tried to persuade young people not to go there. Perhaps it was my affinity for the downtrodden, the underdog, the long shot, that made me a good fit for the Shady Dell culture. Thank you very much, dear Toni, for coming over in support of Janie's blog. I appreciate it very much!

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  16. Susie - Hi, dear friend! I'm happy to see you here on our mutual friend Janie's blog. Thank you for reading my stories today. I hope they were food for thought. I'll see you soon "here, there and everywhere."

    Carol - Hello, dear friend! Human cruelty is unfathomable to most of us. I think it is cathartic for victims of cruelty to share their stories with each other and with compassionate souls who sincerely want to help. Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear Carol!

    Belle - Hello, my dear friend! Thank you very much for joining the discussion here on Janie's blog. I have known you for a long time. You are very much like John and Helen Ettline because you are a champion of troubled youth. You have the ability to see past the rough facade and find the good in young people. You are a good and kind and caring person and I love you. Thank you again for helping shed light on the painful subject of bullying. God bless!

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  17. Janie Junebug - Dear friend, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share my stories with you and your readers. You are to be congratulated for using your blog to open a dialogue about the topic of bullying, one of the many important issues that you boldly address throughout the year.

    I am reminded of my third grade teacher, a woman nearing retirement, decidedly "old school." One day at recess she caught a boy hitting another boy on the playground. Minutes later back in the classroom, she called the offender to the front of the room, told the class what he had done and instructed them to leave their seats, surround him and "give him some of his own medicine" by punching him repeatedly. I will never forget that ugly sight as 20 of my classmates converged on the boy and got their licks in, some of them obviously enjoying it. Something inside held me back. I knew what they were being asked to do was wrong and I couldn't bring myself to join in. What that teacher was fostering that day was more aggression, more violence, not only on the part of the original bully, but among other kids who were learning that hitting is acceptable. "Teach your children well," wise men once sang.

    Thank you again, dear Janie, for giving me such a warm welcome and kind introduction here on your blog. You are part of the solution and I am honored to have you as a friend!

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    1. The honor is mine, Sir Shady, for having you here. That teacher taught you a frightening lesson about mob mentality.

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  18. I was bullied and it made me withdrawn and quiet I built up a wall around me and it was hard for people to get past that wall I was never physically assaulted it was all verbal being called names and such, for me school was a place to be endured not enjoyed

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  19. This was a compelling and well written narrative. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. Thanks.

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  20. Jo-Anne - Hello, dear friend! You make an important point here. Bullying, whether physical or verbal, is rarely an isolated incident from which the victim can easily recover. Bullying is a pattern of aggressive behavior with the intention of hurting someone. That pattern, a series of transgressive acts repeated over a period of time, can cause the victim to withdraw and build walls. I am saddened to learn that school was an endurance test for you rather than the exciting, rewarding experience it should have been. There are far too many stories like yours, people who have unpleasant memories of their school years because they fell prey to bullies. Thank you again for being here and sharing your story, Jo-Anne!

    Stephen - Thank you, my good friend! I've been seeing you around our circle for years and respect your opinions. It was nice of you to take time to read my stories and I am grateful for the compliment. Thanks again and have a great day and week, Stephen!

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  21. Dear Tom,

    Thank you so much for sharing, even if it means my heart is heavy and sad now. It's always such an inspiration to read about those who have risen above the abuse. I wonder how Clifton is? My nephew also has cerebral palsy. Perhaps it's a blessing that his is severe enough that he's never in an environment where he could be bullied because of it.

    -andi

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  22. I'm not sure if my last comment went through, so I'll repeat: It sounds like Ross was in need of some parental love. I find it interesting that many bullies come from broken and unhappy families.

    This was a well-written post. Thank you for sharing.

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  23. Andi - Hello, my friend! Thank you very much for all you expressed here. Along the way I learned that it's not what happens to you in life, it's what you do about it. Victims of bullying can choose to rise above it, leave it in the past where it belongs and focus on spreading the seeds of love the rest of their lives. To answer your question, Clifton is still alive and well, now in his late 60s, having lived far longer than doctors were predicting back in the 50s. Although he is in Pennsylvania and I'm in Florida the last 30 years, we exchange Christmas cards ever year and I still let him know that he was one of the best friends I ever had. I am very sorry to learn about your nephew. Perhaps you are right that he is better off in an environment where he is protected from abuse. Andi, I very much appreciate your comment. Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts.

    Sherry - Hello, my friend! Yours is a very familiar face. For years I have read your comments on the blogs of our mutual friends. I believe wholeheartedly that bullies are not born. They are created, primarily as products of their environment. Ross lived alone with his mother. He had an absentee dad living across town. I can easily understand why he felt hurt, angry and bitter and needed a way to express those emotions. As bullies tend to do he chose to take out his anger and frustration on an innocent child. To this day I feel sorry for him and wish he wouldn't have been abandoned by his dad. Thank you very much for your visit, comment and compliment, dear Sherry!

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  24. Well Shady, I did make it over here. I've met a few bullies in the dark allies of life myself, but never got beaten with a rubber hose. My word, you were just a child! But, then again, most bully recipients are children I suppose. Can I give you one quick episode of mine as a third grader? A boy in my class would pick a switch at a neighboring house near our playground. He would follow me around the playground and switch my legs with his stick when he could get close enough. I spent my recesses that year trying to dodge him, and, or sitting in the girls restroom. When I went to the principal about it, she told me there was nothing she could do...so I endured the abuse until school's end and never saw him again. My parents were at a loss as to a solution..they did not want to cause trouble. And, I am so sorry that you had to be such a victim, but, so proud to know you as someone who, even though a young boy, recognized that it wasn't right, and came to the rescue when you were needed. It is sad that Clifton wasn't able to overcome his afflictions, but, bless you Shady for being there for him.

    Thank you Janie for featuring our good friend Shady on your blog!

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  25. I can so relate to both these well-told stories of bullying. During my first four years of school, I was bullied by boys because I was a head taller than any of them. It was a difficult time, but left no scars. I wonder if it was because I had friends, both girls and boys who would help defend me when they could. So I saw both good and bad at a young age. In 1947, my sister was born with the most severe form of Down's syndrome and while I was too young to understand, I heard from my mom about all the derogatory remarks made about her, how she got a daughter like that, and on and on. It is so strange to me that people find it so easy to be so cruel. Great stories, thank you.

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  26. Howdy Janie and Shady (Tom),
    This is Abigail and my little dog, Daisy checking in. Just wanted to let you know how much i enjoyed that wonderful tale. The eloquent but not over the top writing created a certain and vivid picture of days gone by in my mind. It was full with a wonderful message and touching instances. What a wonderful post you both have shared with us. I wish you both well :)
    ~Abigail and Daisy

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  27. I was a defender of underdogs--people or animals. Like a fearless, crazed warrior more than once, shall we say. It breaks my heart how cruel human beings can be to each other. I am so glad you guys came to each other's rescue! :) :)

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  28. Suzanne - Hello, dearie! Thank you for coming over to Janie's place to read my stories. I am horrified to think of a dear friend like you having to endure the mental and physical abuse inflicted on you by that boy over a prolonged period of time. It is revolting to learn that the principal did not intervene. How could she justify having such a position of power and authority and not take action to stop a repeat offender right there on her campus? The only answer I have is that life was different when you and I were kids. Most people didn't want to make waves. The tendency was to sweep problems under the rug, avoid discussing them and hope they would go away. You have my sympathy, dear Suzanne, but you and I turned out pretty well in the end, didn't we? I can't tell you how much it means to have a friend like you. Thank you again for coming here to JJ's to testify. Take care, dear Suzanne!

    Inger - Thank you very much for being here to read my stories and share yours. I remember a boy in first grade who was a head taller than every other child. He was extremely studious, always walking around with his face in a book. Those two factors made him an object of ridicule. Kids called him "Frankenstein" and distanced themselves from him. He was always the last kid picked for a sports team and everybody's target during those cruel games of dodge ball. I am deeply saddened to know that your mother, sister and you had to endure heckling just because your sister had a birth defect. If people like that would only give love, tolerance and compassion a chance to take root in their lives, surely they would never go back to blindly hating ever again. Thank you again, dear Inger, for all you shared with us today!

    Abigail & Daisy - Hello, my sweet friends! Thank you very much for swinging by to read my stories from early childhood light years before you were born. Overall it was a simpler, kinder and gentler time but as these stories indicate, bullying is not a phenomenon of the new millennium. Bullies have been around through all of recorded history. It's good to know people are finally mobilizing in an effort to combat the problem. Than you again, my dear Kansas friends. I appreciate your visit and I know our host, Janie Junebug, does too!

    Rita - Hello, my dear Fargo friend! Defending the weak, innocent and defenseless (animals included) has been a way of life for me since childhood. So has being a champion of the underdog, finding the good in all people, identifying all the things that unite us rather than focusing on things that divide us. You are an intelligent woman with a good heart, Rita, and I am very proud to have you as a friend. Thank you very much for coming over to JJ's to participate in this dialogue about the important issue of bullying. Take care, dear friend!

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  29. Tom, your well-written vignettes and responses to responders have triggered many wise, insightful comments. Well done! I've been off on a book tour for my memoir Cleft Heart that Janie has generously featured on this blog. Now that I'm at a hotel with easy internet access, I'm trying to catch up with Janie's Bully blogs.

    One thought: people who lament the PC terms for "outsiders" don't realize the hurt caused by name calling.I find this especially true among those of us raised with the saying, "Sticks and stone may break your bones, but words will never hurt you."

    Let's hope that words like "cripple, moron, queer"---used for your friend Clifton---continue to morph fast enough that bullies will be forced to keep up with the ever-changing nomenclature, allowing them less time for bullying.

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    1. Hi, Karl! It's nice to see you catching up on all the posts you missed here on Janie's blog and I appreciate you taking time to read my bullying stories. I wish I had a nickel for every time my father uttered that "sticks and stones" adage to me. I often replay that scene in the park the day Ross poked Clifton in the chest with his index finger and, with a hateful scowl and raised voice, called him those names. "Cripple"? Yes, Clifton was crippled, but through no fault of his own. He's saddled for life with a painful, debilitating condition. Why add insult to injury? Why kick him when he's already down? "Moron"? While it's true that Clifton did not have the mental capacity of a normal person, he was "a friend waiting to happen" and, as I discovered, you'd be hard pressed to find a more loyal one. "Queer of the year"? Really? Did Ross assume that people with Cerebral Palsy are homosexual? Clifton was not, nor was he oversexed as many of the nervous housewives in the neighborhood feared.

      You're right, Karl. The bullying nomenclature has changed since the 50s and it continues to evolve at a rapid rate. New words have a shelf life of only a few months until they are considered obsolete. It is my hope that people will someday grow tired of all the trash talk and get hooked on the buzz that comes from going out of their way to be kind to others, especially those who are in greatest need of a friend, society's "outsiders."

      Thanks again, Karl, for taking time to visit Janie's back pages, read my true stories and leave such a kind and thoughtful comment. Take care, my friend!

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