There she was, sitting with her face buried in her hands, tears trickling through her fingers and soft sobs evading her feeble attempt at concealment. I looked on with mixed emotions. I was frustrated with the boy who caused the tears, sympathetic of the girl who had been offended and completely overwhelmed by memories from my past. The scene was all too familiar and it carried me back to my childhood, to a time when I was sitting where this child sat, a time that forever changed my view of who God made me to be.
I was there – completely broken, tears streaming down my face and spirit crushed because of someone’s careless words. I still remember the hurt I felt as I heard that awful name spewing from the mouth of a teenage boy in front of the whole world, or so it seemed. We were on the school bus but it might as well have been the whole world. I was 9 years old. I was different because of a physical disorder and all I wanted was to fit in, to be accepted, to be normal. That day, this teenager’s laughter and mocking dashed any hopes I had of that happening.
I couldn’t contain my tears. I couldn’t wait to get off of that bus. I wanted to be at home. I wanted my mom. And my mom is just who I needed because the advice she gave me that day impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined. I don’t remember everything my mom said that afternoon but I will never forget what she told me to do the next day on the school bus. She told me to fight back, to retaliate the next time this teenager called me a name. I was a tiny little thing and this boy was probably four times my size but my mom said to stand my ground. It empowered me.
I know what you are thinking. “Your mom actually told you to call that kid a name?” Yes, she did and she even gave me the name to call him! And being the good little girl that I was, I did exactly what my mom told me to do. The very next afternoon, after I struggled up the bus steps and began walking down the aisle to my seat, I heard it. The words “Duck Walk” pierced through the commotion of kids playing and talking and hit me square in the back of the head. I turned, glared straight into the boy’s face and returned insult for insult. “Dog Face!” I blurted. He did not strike back. Instead, he smiled, sat down and never called me “Duck Walk” again.
At age 9, I didn’t quite grasp the value of the lesson I learned that day or fully understand all that my mom was trying to teach me but at age 39, I have come to cherish the priceless wisdom I gained from that experience. My mom was reminding me of who I was that afternoon when she told me to fight back. She was showing me that God does not make mistakes despite the opinions of the world and that I cannot let anyone tell me differently. I cannot let anyone steal my joy, my happiness or my hopes. That’s quite a lesson learned from simply calling a bully a “Dog Face”!
And so, I passed this lesson on to the girl who had been insulted, the girl who is picked on every day at school because she does not look like everyone else. No, I did not tell her to call her bullies some silly name – I’ll leave that to her mom! But I did tell her to stand her ground, to take pride in who God made her to be, to defy Satan in his attempts to steal her joy, and to hold her head up high. God has a purpose for this precious girl and she’s going to be just fine. She may not understand it now but one day she’ll be standing in my place passing on this pearl of wisdom to another little girl or little boy who needs to know that God’s Love is so much greater than any insult hurled by this world and that God does not make mistakes.