Bullies make life harder

By Joe Rector

As has been stated in other pieces of mine, I was an ugly child. No, that doesn’t mean things are different now. A young boy with a burr haircut, buck teeth, a round belly, and popsicle-stick legs has little eye appeal. He is, however, ripe for the picking by bullies. Over the years, I’ve known plenty of bullies and they are all mad about something in their lives. Others are the targets on which these unhappy people pour their misery.

The Cheek boys sometimes acted like bullies. Mike especially enjoyed picking on me. His talent for giving names was above average. Because I was fat, not chubby or large or hefty, Mike decided to call me “Round Man.” The name derived from the round bread that Merita Bread had begun producing. Mike changed the words to an ad jingle, and they stabbed me. He sang, “There’s a brand-new kid in town. His name is ‘round and round.’ Oh, oh, oh, Joe’s round and round.”

I also suffered with a terrible overbite. Those exposed teeth led to stares by almost everyone and to names given by folks I knew. Some called me “bottle opener” and asked me to open my mouth and pop the top of a bottle of Coke. Even worse, some called me “Bucky Beaver.” They’d make a quick, smacking noise and then try to stick out their teeth.

In fourth grade, I was tormented by a bully whom I was sure wanted to kill me. The person had a surly temper that reared its ugly head without warning. When the anger oozed, the bully walked to me, smirked, and kicked me in the legs. Most every day, I returned home with complaints about how much my legs hurt. My mother knew the reason for my pain, and after too much whining, she threatened me. “If you come home and complain about your legs without having defended yourself, I’ll spank you.” It was a golden opportunity to give back without fear of being punished.

The next day, I walked confidently to class. My nemesis spied me and walked toward me, all the while smiling. After a couple of smart words, another foot connected with my leg. However, this time, a fist clashed with the jaw of the person, who then left crying. From that day on, Arlene Moore never messed with me again.

During my senior year in college, I stopped at a market to pick up a few items. A car pulled in as I was leaving, and the driver threw open his door and put a small dent in my front door. I jumped out and asked him what his problem was. He came up to me and pushed me hard and asked me what I wanted to do about it. That morning the minister had talked about turning the other cheek and how that’s what we must do to be Christlike. As a result, I just stood there. To this day, it bothers me. I know what the good Lord did, but I’m human and will never again be treated like that.  Oh, I might suffer severe injuries from a fight, but I won’t turn the other cheek.

I’ve never suffered the kind of bullying that some children have. Those incidents in my life occurred when someone was trying to be funny. The newsflash is that none of them were. Demeaning another person to feel better about yourself speaks volumes about who you are. Leave others alone; don’t do or say things that will make them feel inferior. Just treat the next person the way you’d want to be treated. That’s always been pretty good advice.