Steve Hansen’s column, “Dealing with bullies is a challenge adults face, too,” Aug. 13, reminded me of a bullying incident 60 years ago at Stockton’s Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
When I was 9 years old and in the fifth grade, there was this really big seventh-grader from Stockton Junior High School. Every Monday and Friday after school, he’d be waiting at the corner for the kids walking home from school. He’d force two or three to kneel down in the gutter and eat dirt. If you refused, he’d beat the hell out of you. The victims were always much smaller than him. I was scared to death of him, and when he pointed his finger at me and said “Monday,” I felt sick.
Monday rolled around and I was too sick for school. Dad, sensing something, coaxed the fear out of me. He explained that bullies are opportunists and cowards, and if met with real resistance and resolve, would fold “like a wet wash rag.”
My dad cut a two-foot section from mom’s broom handle and told me to hide it in the bushes closest to the school exit. He told me to be brave and when leaving school to retrieve the club, and with no talk or fanfare of any kind, but with a prayer on my lips to attack the bully and beat him with that piece of pine.
After a long fretful day, the last bell rang and I prayerfully retrieved my weapon from the bushes. Laying down my books and folder, I ran at the bully, catching him by surprise and levying some painful blows to his shoulders and arms. He didn’t know what hit him, and he couldn’t pedal fast enough to escape the wrath of this very focused fifth-grader.
I was a hero that Monday — kids respected me, and I respected myself. Certainly the Lord taught the bully and I a lesson that day. His tears cost him his power on Cleveland Street.
I thanked my dad for his intervention. He said, “Son, fear is the opposite of faith. When we give in to fear, the bullies win. But even if we resist and lose the fight, the bullies will always run to the path of least resistance.”
William Van Amber Fields