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I remember the first time I uttered those words…
We were playing Red Rover (you remember how it goes: “Red rover, red rover, send [insert name] over)”.
One the of the boys from the other team broke through my linked hands with the girl next to me, then took away the best boy from our team.
During his mad dash through our clenched hands, one of my fingers was hurt. I almost started to cry. He called me a baby and mimicked my squeeze-back-the-tears face to which I replied:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
He stuck out his tongue at me.
And the game continued.
Recently, I’ve thought about those fateful words.
Recently, I’ve come to the following conclusion:
They are a
I have been called many things: most were untrue, some were dead on, but all were hurtful…maybe more so than the sticks and stones, which leave marks that, over time, fade and, more than often, disappear. Words, however; especially the toxic, cruel, and emotionally disfiguring variety; seep beyond the flesh to the heart and soul of us and reside there, if allowed, for a lifetime.
Some things said to or about me in anger or disdain I’ve forgotten to remember or simply let go of. But there are a select few which play over and over again on my heart recorder and, after all this time, still have the power to wound.
To cause doubt.
To cause shame.
With the now international attention given to bullying, I’ve questioned my thoughts as both a victim and as a perpetrator.
I don’t remember ever intentionally being cruel or singling out any specific person, but memories of our own ugliness tend to be less searing than the ugliness of others, so I suppose I did and have.
I may just have been oblivious, but bullying back then seemed to be on another, much lesser, level.
Victims didn’t take their own lives
they didn’t take the lives of others.
I do remember a girl being taunted by a group of boys on Senior Sleepover Night in the parking lot of our high school. She had been outspoken and brave condemning underage drinking when most our age just succumbed to it. Her car was mobbed that night. It was doused with beer, pelted with cans and then urinated on.
She must have been traumatized.
They must have been given a slap on the wrists (if memory serves me right, they didn’t walk in graduation).
No lives lost.
No lives ruined.
I don’t remember suicide attempts or threats. I don’t remember fourteen-year-olds being charged with aggravated stalking. I don’t remember eight-year-olds hanging themselves from trees. I don’t remember twelve-year-olds jumping off silos. I don’t remember ever hearing the word bullycide. And I certainly don’t remember being afraid to go to school.
Probably because I wasn’t.
I had that luxury.
The luxury of going to school to learn.
The luxury of not worrying that I wouldn’t make it home because I disagreed with someone, looked at them the wrong way or, Heaven forbid, won the attention of a boy to whom someone else had laid claim.
A luxury that kids today don’t have.
Over dinner last night, my husband voiced his concerns about having a child in today’s world. How he’d feel selfish bringing a little one into such a mess of violence and injustice just for the sake of having someone call him Daddy.
We all are.
We’re broken people raising other people that, in their own ways, will be broken too.
But, isn’t that the beauty of things?
That we’re broken and through each new day, each new experience and our interaction with others we can learn, grow and attain the tools necessary to do better and thus be better?
I don’t believe that most people are horrible, vicious, heartless sub-humans.
I can’t allow myself to believe that.
If I did…
what’s the point of living such a life?
If there is no good?
If I don’t believe that people are better than the circumstances in which they’re born or which they simply or not so simply create?
I don’t pretend to know much about much, but I’d like to think that I know people.
That, more often than not, I see things, at the heart level, that others miss.
let’s be more vigilant with the thoughts that are planted in the soil of our minds and hearts.
It is from there that the words come.
And it is precisely there that the heartbreak stays.