Winston is watching a show this morning as I clean the house. I hear a super hero say " If someone is picking on you, you don't have to put up with bullying!" I pay closer attention to the message my son is receiving. "Don't get angry, don't fight back. You're the one who has the power."
I think back to my youth. I wasn't bullied. But I remember the boy who was. His name was Ben. His locker was close to mine. He was raised in foster homes, and that's how he ended up in my town. He loved KISS. He drew their logo on everything he owned, and his art was decent. His mental health wasn't as good as his art. Once he came to school and his eyebrows were shaved off. I can't remember why. Maybe his foster brothers had done it, or maybe he didn't see the use for eyebrows. Either case would not surprise me. I said hi to him more than once. But I yelled at him a lot on a number of occasions.
He was on my track team and he ran the 1600m. Everyone would be finished the race, and he would still have a whole lap left. I would scream "YOU CAN DO IT BEN!" or "KEEP GOING BEN!" He inspired me. He was nobody's target on the track, and it showed. He could have stepped off 11 minutes into a 6 minute race, but he always crossed the line. His coaches, officials, spectators, opponents and teammates could have discouraged him, or become impatient, but we didn't. He had grit. In sport, grit counts. Guys who would later torment him on the bus ride home from away meets would nudge him on the field " Nice finish Ben..." With his index finger, he'd push the bridge of his brown plastic glasses up, wipe his sweaty brow off with his jersey, look up and say " I know."