In my less than perfect childhood, which included more time in trailers than traditional homes, I encountered bullies. My middle school and high school years, living on the wrong street in town, were at times an exercise in avoidance, seeking safe places and refuges where the bully across the street couldn’t get to me.
We often forget that those terrible experiences can be used for good purpose by God. He did with me.
Ten years ago, when I was a mother, I encountered bullying behavior in an organization with my own children. I saw a minority child who was taunted with racist comments. And I learned that on breaks, a girl had bullied others to the point of tears – and no one stopped her.
I realized I had to say or do something. So I became president of their parents organization and immediately instituted a new policy:
Zero Tolerance for Bullies
When you’re in leadership and set a standard like that at the top, it filters down. So far as I know, the bullying stopped. The few times it nearly erupted its head, I turned into Battle Ax Mary, Defender of Those Who Are Bullied.
Over the years, friends of mine who have seen my protectiveness of children sometimes joke about it. But they know that if I’m present – if I see a child being bullied either by other children or an adult, I will throw myself between them and do what it takes to stop it. They know I have never caved to a bully.
Ten years later, my own children are nearly grown. I still work in youth leadership, but it can sometimes get easy to lull into a complacent spot of going through the motions. I know that the first essential element of any successful youth program is that the kids need to feel safe and comfortable.
Then something happens. I see a child mistreated and remember why I first ventured on this path of volunteering with kids.
I know what it’s like to try to do something and to be humiliated. I know what it feels like when you work hard and someone publicly mocks you.
Our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be compromised with we let the bullies do their dirty work.
As a result, now and for a lifetime, I will volunteer with youth programming to give kids a safe place in which to nurture their talents. Most of the time, that role will be fun.
But no matter what, my Battle Ax Mary supersuit, complete with a hammer of Wrathful Mom (which is stronger than the hammer of Thor), will be hanging in the closet, in case I need to reach in, grab it, and wear it to protect a kid.
Bullies be warned. The only way you will come between kids and me is over my cold, dead body.