|Not my lunch box, but this is what it looked like.|
They never bothered me again on the bus after that. That was in 2nd grade. I was shaking when I sat back down because I couldn't believe I had actually done it. That was one time I didn't even feel bad for what I had done, even though I knew I shouldn't have hit him. I knew hitting others was wrong.
We grew up together and graduated from high school together. After that experience, they knew I would stand up for myself so they didn't physically bully me anymore, but the name calling continued all through our years of school together, even until we graduated high school.
Those three boys were not the only ones to bully me throughout school so I personally know what it is like to be bullied and ostracized. When I was in 7th grade another boy intentionally took a basketball and through it right in my face as hard as he could. I had some bruises, but I survived. I have several other experiences. These were not the only ones, but they are enough to convey my point.
I never let those bullies break me though. I knew who I was. I had been taught by my parents, grandparents, and teachers in church that I was special; that I was a daughter of God and that made me a princess. I knew that He loved me and I knew my family loved me. I remained true to myself throughout all of those difficult growing up years and never gave in to the peer pressure to have sex or to go "party". I remained true to the values and standards that I was taught would protect me. And remaining true to those values and standards did protect me... in many, many ways.
One thing that helped me was something I had been told, somewhere, by someone. I don't remember who or when I heard it, but I took it to heart. I began to look at the bullies from their perspective. I would watch them and came to realize that many of those mean kids had great sadnesses and heartaches in their lives. They had things going on in their personal lives that were so hard, but many of them didn't have a support network of people who loved them and supported them at home. Some of them were just mean because they were spoiled rotten and their parents let them do or have anything they wanted. Some of them were just mean for no apparent reason, but this group was very small. I realized most of the bullies were really just reaching out for help. Many of them had so much anger, sadness, or hurt built up inside them that they were like a bomb ready to go off with any kind of spark. I learned to have compassion and sympathy for them. I learned not to judge people by their actions because I never know what may be causing their behavior.
One night I was at a country outdoor street dance a few months after our high school graduation and one of the three boys came up to me and told me that he was sorry for all the years he had been mean to me. (He wasn't the one I hit with the lunch box.) He told me that he wished he wouldn't have and that he didn't mean all of the things he said. He told me that in reality he had respected me all of those years for not giving in to the peer pressure and for being a "good" girl. He wished he would have had the courage to stand up for what was right and not give in to the peer pressure himself. It meant a lot to me and in that instant I fully forgave him for everything he had ever done to me. He was sincere in his apology and I knew it. To this day I have a deep respect for him and his courage to apologize to me. When I see him now we smile and and say hello and ask each other how our families are. I'm not bogged down by anger, resentment, or revenge towards him. That one act actually freed me from so much of the pain I suffered at the hands of all the bullies in my life. When he apologized I almost felt like he was apologizing for all of them. It helped me to forgive them all. I owe him a debt of gratitude for that.
I see kids (and adults) who are bullied and ostracized everywhere I go. I can pick them out in a crowd. I know what they look like. I know them because I was them. I hone into those kids without even realizing it. I seem to gravitate to them and when I get to them I end up putting my arms around them and telling them how special they are. I ask them to tell me about themselves, to tell me about their interests and hobbies. I want to know because I want them to know that they are important... that they are special too. My heart breaks for these kids because I know what it feels like and I turn into a protector when I find them. Maybe that's why I never root for the winning team. I always root for the underdog. Always.