As a child I remember watching a high school boy walk up on our porch to hit my little brother. I stepped in the middle and took the punch. With the weeping and wailing that ensued, my Dad flew out of the house, jumped in his car and throwing his siren on top of the car took off for the boy. Dad took him to the station and made sure that young man knew he was never to be on our side of the street much less our porch again. When your Dad is the Chief of the Fire Department, a former police officer, a Vietnam Vet, the preacher, and plays Santa every year at the courthouse– you better believe bullies don’t stand much of a chance. The seventies and eighties were good in my little town of Calhoun. I’d say at times the preacher’s kids were the bullies as Bud and I both had the concept that you either came to Christ by faith or force!
Over the years, I’ve watched bullies change from the big dumb kid shaking down somebody for lunch money to tech savvy kids passing doctored photos from phone to phone. I’ve noticed a bully is not as much identified by their size as by the size of distraction they can make for the victim. Just like any poisonous snake, the rapid fire of insults day in and day out is paralyzing.
We know this. We educate our kids on this. We tell them to not be a bully and we plead with them to tell us if they are being bullied.
Unfortunately, children and teens are still dying. Unfortunately, the bullied are still sinking. They have become excellent hiders. They have to be because bullies are everywhere. They are at school. Some find their way to church. They work at the fast food place and they hang out at the library and the school ball games.
So since they are everywhere, isn’t it time that we as adults start getting more involved? My son is a part of a youth group in Mason. It took one phone call and in less than a couple of hours plans were formed to encourage the bullied. Why? One adult said not one of mine. Because the organization is a reflection of their leader, all the students banded together as news traveled that one of their own had been attacked.
Empowering youth to go for their dreams may mean that the first step is giving our youth a safe place to dream. This means that as adults we have to take our heads out of our phones at games or when we are waiting to pick our kids up. It means we start checking the pics and messages our kids send and receive. It means we don’t sit back and wait for things to resolve themselves. We don’t hold back in reserve as the hurt goes on.
Maybe I’m a little more sensitive now than I was 35 years ago… Or maybe things are worse with the bullies having more than just domain over the playground. Today, bullies can own social media, schools, church and civic organizations– the only way to stop it is to step in.
Do I think every kid that calls another kid a name is a bully? Honestly what I think doesn’t matter– the question is what does the kid being picked on think? Sometimes by stepping in we keep both children from taking on roles that will not benefit either of them.
Want to empower all our youth to do greater things than their parents could do? Observe, step in, challenge. Make a difference by being involved.