Wednesday, March 14, 2012


When I was in third grade, there was a kid in my class, Eddie, who was even more of a nerd than I was. He had super thick glasses, super skinny arms, and he went around saying things like "Do you know what the cubed root of 64 is?" When we had a class assignment to memorize the first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address, Eddie memorized the whole thing. I don't remember him having any friends really, though I do remember going to his house once to play Acquire. I suspect that his existence is one of the main reasons that I survived that year relatively unscathed when school bullies came looking for the weakest prey to pick on.

I remember one day after class, he came running out ahead of me, pursued by one of the bigger kids in the class. I don't remember what exactly went through my head, but I chased the bigger kid down and squeezed the back of his neck so he fell to the ground, giving Eddie the chance to get away. I then bravely ran away myself before this bigger kid had the chance to get back up. This was probably the most heroic thing I've ever done.

I am not sure what has happened since then.

Several years ago, I remember walking through town, and I saw something happening about 100 feet away on a side street. There was a kid with a bike, backed up against a wall and surrounded by 3 other kids. The kid with the bike looked terrified. I was much larger than any of the kids there; probably if I even just shouted something, the three other kids would've cleared out and the Bike Kid would have been able to get home safe that day. Instead I walked by quietly. I still picture that kid's face every once in a while. Doing nothing in that circumstance is probably one of my biggest regrets.

I think that as one who was at high-risk for teasing and bullying in elementary school, I learned to blend into the background and not make waves; you don't bully someone you don't think about. I do remember the "tougher" kids kicking down my snowmen I would make during recess, but I can't remember any other particular instances when I was the victim of targeted bullying. I stayed out of their way for a few years, and by high school I could almost completely avoid them by taking honors courses. Even now, however, certain sorts of people still really intimidate me, which I think is why I did nothing to help the Bike Kid years later.

I recently read The Help, and it got me thinking about these issues again. This book tells the story of several courageous women who risk everything for the cause of civil rights. I think that I'm at an age now where I have fewer chances to chase down and tackle people who are victimizing those weaker than them, but I do think that there are several instances still where I can stand up for other people and for principles that are important to me. Many of these instances may not be as dramatic as putting life and limb on the line, but they may be just as heroic.