What if do-overs were something we were really allowed in our life? Sometimes we are given the opportunity to correct a wrong, but we don’t ever get the option to go back in time and handle things differently. But if we did, I know exactly what one of my first do-overs would be.
As a child, I had to change schools frequently because of my dad’s military career. One thing each school seem to have in common, unfortunately, was that one person who was picked on by the other kids. This was way back before bullying was discussed in schools, so it was allowed to continue. This was not the physical act of actually hurting the person; this was the continual teasing which most likely caused emotional damage. In one of my elementary schools, a favorite game of many was to touch another child, pretending to pass on “Stacy’s* cooties.” Although I think I only participated in this activity once or twice, I do remember feeling uncomfortable with it but never doing anything to stop it. I specifically remember that when this girl’s birthday came around, she passed out very few invitations to her birthday party, and I was not among those who received one. She said she only gave them out to those kids who never played the “Stacy’s cooties” game. I remember feeling such shame that I couldn’t count myself among those who were guilt-free.
After a couple more moves, I was in a different town, and now in junior high school. This school also had its favorite victim. I had at least learned enough of a lesson from the Stacy situation that I made sure I never participated in this. But again, I did nothing to stop it. I think my excuse in this case was that I was so unsure of myself that I tried to remain invisible so that I didn’t become another target.
Another move, and I was in high school. Different town, different school, same story. I think the teasing was at least less flagrant here – mostly behind-her-back whispers and criticism. Again, I didn’t perpetuate it, but I never made an effort to stop it.
If I could go back in time and do it over, I’d like to think I would do better. I hope I would befriend these people; or if my shyness still got in the way, hopefully I’d at least give them a friendly smile. The one thing I did do right, however, was try to teach my children never to repeat my mistakes, and hopefully to go one step further and befriend or defend the targets. As far as I know, they did the right thing. I am so glad people recognize the problem of bullying more now, even though it can easily still be an issue.
I periodically remember these experiences, and I never think of them without deep regret. I recently tried looking these three people up on Facebook. I found what could have been the one from my elementary school, but I’m not sure. No luck on the next one, but I did find the one from high school. She passed away a few years ago, apparently. It looks like her life turned out okay, if somewhat solitary. But she obviously had people who cared about her, and I am glad for that.
I don’t know why we humans sometimes pick on others. Maybe it’s due to insecurity or example or ignorance, but it’s never justified. Each of us is unique and worthy of respect. Our best hope is to learn this lesson and help others to learn and live it also. What a different world this would be if we could all remember just this one thing.
*not her real name
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