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Letter: Bullies need power to thrive

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:00 am

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


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1 comment:

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 2:38 pm on Wed, Aug 21, 2013.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Mr Fields: Love your truth. My truth involved a young man named Donald Hoag. When LHS was E/W Campus, Donald was a Junior and a Special Gifts kid. I was a Sophomore that had two classes on the East Campus. Many times when I came to the campus I witnessed several of the Senior "tough guys" bullying Donald and eventually it got the best of me. Ultimately there was a fight and one of the bullies ended up knocked out and bleeding...the other two ran. Later that day Mr Seiferling came to my room and took me back to his office where the bully already was. He proceeded to question us about the incident. I think to our surprise the young man (I don't mention his name for a reason) said that he had been "punking" Donald at the urging of his friends and that he was actually ashamed of what he did. He told me that he was sorry for getting me into trouble, shook my hand and said he wanted to apologize to Donald. Which Mr Seiferling arranged. Years later I ran into the young man and he told me that the incident had changed his life and to that day he felt a bit of guilt.

    Both Donald and the young man have since passed but the memory for me lingers. I always told the kids I coached or those who hung around with my kids...be the one who sticks up for the underdog...don't hit women, don't hit kids, don't kick dogs and don't lie...Someone is going to get mad. We are all born with one strike...some are born with two...don't be the one to give them their third!

    I miss Donald Hoag...some say he was a Special Needs kid...His gift to me was himself...Donald was the first Special Gifts kid!


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