I want to tell the story of four young girls several hundred miles from here. I only know one of these young seventh graders personally, and to respect her privacy, I will call her Linda.
Linda is a talented musician, an excellent student, a motivated athlete, and a girl that marches to her own drumbeat. She chooses to dress the way she wants, in bright purple, while her peers wear all black. In sports, she joins the all-boy teams for the competition and eventually gains the boy’s respect.
During P.E. class at her school, in the mostly unsupervised locker room, she became a target of bullying - verbal abuse by two girls. They would ask her “are you a boy?” or “why do you dress that way” or make many other comments that were just plain odd. Nothing said was substantial enough for Linda to mention it to her mother, her counselor, or her teachers.
The next girl - my quiet hero - must have been an observer in this unsupervised locker room. She recognized quickly that the way the two girls were treating Linda was wrong. She went to her counselor, and shared the details of what was going on in the locker room. Soon after, Linda was called into the counselor’s office and asked about the situation. And the conversation was started.
Linda continued to endure inappropriate verbal exchanges until this past week, when the two “bullies” cornered Linda in a stairwell, and blocked the way out. Linda asked “are you going to let me out?” and the response was “no.” Linda chose not to be the victim. She pushed past the two bullies, but was yanked back by her hair. One girl egged the instigator on. The instigator punched Linda; Linda punched back and escaped to the safety of the school counselor.
The counselor believed Linda’s story. The “instigator” was suspended. Then, the counselor re-arranged schedules of the two bullies so that Linda would never cross paths with them in the locker room again. The counselor told Linda that if the “bullies” even looked at her funny, she was to come report it.
I am impressed with the swift and decisive action of the counselor, but the real praise goes to my quiet hero. She is only thirteen years old, and yet she was brave enough to protect Linda. She recognized right from wrong; she chose to not passively ignore the situation, but rather to protect someone. Her conversation with the counselor had given a clear picture to the counselor earlier in the year. Then, when the bullying turned physical, the counselor already understood the situation before Linda ever walked in claiming to have been punched.
My first inclination is to be angry with the two girls that were the bullies, but I do not know these two girls. I suspect that something or someone drove them to become bullies themselves - their actions might be an attempt to regain some lost dignity. So, each night, I pray for each of these four girls – I will pray that they have the strength to protect a victim, to seek out and befriend a lonely classmate, to know that it gets better, and to live.
My quiet hero will soon receive a thank you note, through her school counselor.