It began as a game, I think.
It was a contest on who can make me react, make me get out of my shell. This was back in high school, a few years after I had firmly resolved to hide in the background, remain unnoticed, and finish my schooling without incident. I had very few friends.
One boy called me names. When I smiled and thanked him, he quieted down.
Another would grab my things and throw them. I would pick them up without complaint. When it seemed that this didn’t work, he stopped doing this too.
One particular boy, however, upon seeing the failures of his friends, decided to pursue a somewhat violent course. He would push. He would shove. He would elbow and knee when the teacher wasn’t looking. He would spit balls of paper through the tube of a pen with the ink removed. He would trip me up. Then he would laugh and encourage his friends to laugh with him.
I did not like to go home with bruises, and hid them when I could.
It was fun for him, because I was much smaller. I was quiet and unperturbed, cool and calm.
Underneath, I was becoming angry.
After one of his abuses, I finally stood up to him. I was scared because I was so small, and there were no adults around. I pushed him to the wall and said, “Stop!”
I remember the shocked look on his face… the few moments of silence as this tiny, inconceivable event registered in his brain. And as I walked away, I felt the air change… his rage emerged.
He was going to hit me. He was going to hurt me.
As his friends saw the transformation on his face and his intentions, some tried to stop him. A few held him back, but he was shaking them off.
Then I remember one classmate who was neither a friend nor a foe, slowly get up from his chair. He stood between me and the furiously angry boy.
“You will not hurt him,” he said in a quiet voice. It was a voice of authority. His friends, one by one, began to stand by his side.
It rapidly defused the incident. And for the following days after, nobody wanted to mess with me anymore.
I do not know whether he realized that, at that single moment, he became my guardian angel. Someone who saw a wrong, and with much bravery and quiet authority, stood up to do something about it.
I always pray for the parents of this friend, thanking them for raising their son well. May I, too, with my sons today, raise similar boys.
I read in the news today of a bullied boy who fought back. The bully’s father brought a bodyguard and a gun to school, purposely aimed the barrel at the boy’s head, with deadly intent. There were other people watching, frozen, unable to do anything.
For some inexplicable reason, the school administration suspended the victim. This event was brought out in the news for the lack of a definite response from the authorities involved.
And I wonder, what lessons these boys are learning today?