Monday, May 28, 2012

Speak Softly and Maybe Sometimes Carry a BIG Stick …

I'm always saying Peace & LOVE, right?

"We Remember and Are Forever Grateful ..."

This Memorial Day, a day of honoring those who have fought nobly in battle and given their lives for the cause of the greater good of their country and its allies, I find myself pondering the notion of war. In the abstract, I would venture that most people have an aversion to war, fighting and bloodshed … but when the battle comes to your very doorstep, perhaps people change their feelings about war and the reasons one could use to justify defending themselves and those that they love.

As I think back to my childhood, I find that I have always been a peaceful person by nature. That being said, when I see others being hurt or persecuted unjustly something inside me has always called to stand up for those unable to do so for themselves. I can remember getting right into the middle of a group of junior high boys taunting and tormenting a young girl on the school bus ride home because she had a strange accent –she was from Ireland—and had a large purple birthmark covering the larger part of the right side of her face. I can’t even remember exactly what I said, but I got right back in their faces – I was, fortunately, very tall for my age … taller than most of the boys my age still in 7th grade—and I shouted at them in a loud and booming voice to leave her alone and that they should be ashamed of themselves. And for whatever reason, those boys backed off. I’m not sure what I would have done if they hadn’t, but it would have come to me, I know. Strangely enough, I had no fear in that moment when I acted; I only knew that I had to act. After the boys went back to their seats, I sat next to the girl –Mary was her name-- for the rest of the bus ride. I tried to take her mind off what had just transpired. Mary was one of the first stops to get off the bus and I made sure that none of the boys got off to follow her home. Then it occurred to me that perhaps they would get off the bus at my stop and come after me? But I wasn’t afraid, something told me that all would be well … and if it came down to it I knew that I could run like the wind.

There have been many instances like the above in my life. The above incident did not call for actual fighting, just a willingness to be bold and to speak loudly. When I was just seven years of age, however, I was called to resort to violence in a manner of speaking. A big bully of a boy used to torment me during recess. He used to follow me around and call me names. He was a huge boy, but not very bright. I sensed a hurting in him that came from somewhere outside of school and I almost felt sorry for him on some level. For the most part, I tried to ignore him and stay out his way since his taunts were only verbal. But one day he took to throwing things at me and grabbing onto my arm and squeezing really hard. I told him to stop or he would get into trouble, but he said he didn’t care and he just teased me further calling me a “tattle-tale … going to run and tell the teacher.” The thought of going to the teacher had occurred to me, but I had seen how inept the teachers had been at handling this boy in his tormenting of other children. Thus, I decided not to run and tell the teacher which only served to intensify the taunts and attacks of this boy upon my person. I did however mention to my parents, at home, that this boy had been bothering me. My mom told me to tell the teacher and wanted to know if she should go in and talk to the teacher. I told her in no uncertain terms not to do the latter. I told her that I had everything under control. She laughed and said that we would just see about that.

One day when this bully boy had been unrelenting in his tormenting of me, something inside of me snapped --or rather clicked-- and suddenly I knew that the only way that I was going to get this boy to stop tormenting me was to speak his language. You see, I used to love to go down this tall spiral slide and lately the bully had taken to waiting for me at the bottom. Then he would push me face down into the sand once my feet hit the ground. As I peered down out of the slide tower this day, I saw the bully waiting for me at the bottom of slide. I knew what was waiting for me at the bottom of the slide, but I was determined that this bully was not going to ruin my or anyone else’s recess by intimidating us from going down the slide. I sat at the top of the slide, I clenched my little hand into a fist and went right on down the slide … spinning around the twirls to his intermittent taunts. Right before my feet came to the bottom of the slide I drew my arm back, so that the second my feet hit the ground my arm was moving in a forward motion aimed right into the middle of this boy’s stomach. I hit him with everything I had before he knew what was coming and it worked. Little old me knocked the wind right out of this big kid and he went down gasping for air. Of course, this time all of the recess teachers came running over to see what had happened. They asked me what had occurred and I told them … “I punched him in the stomach.” So I was sent straight to the principal’s office and they called my mom and everything.

The principal asked why I had punched the boy on the playground, so I told him flat out that the boy was a bully who had lately taken to physically hurting people. I explained that the recess teachers never did anything effective to stop this bully, so on this day I had finally decided to take matters into my own hand. The principal was trying not to laugh, I could tell, at the thought of this “sweet little girl” slugging the biggest kid in the class in a “game of playground politics.” The principal made me promise that I wouldn’t do such a thing again. I told the principal that I truly hated to resort to violence, but that seemed to be the only language that this boy understood. I promised that I would not hit the boy again unless he sorely needed to be taught another lesson. This time the principal did laugh and asked that I please inform a recess teacher of my intentions before doing so again in the future. I said that I would try my best to do so. The funny thing is that the big bully never did bug me again. In fact, we even became friends of sorts. It turns out that he liked playing with caterpillars and climbing trees too.

I think that there will always be people in this world who think that whoever carries the biggest stick “wins.” And you can’t always reason with this mentality or conquer it up front with LOVE. In these instances, I think that we are called to defend ourselves and those who cannot defend themselves. We have to speak the language that the “big stick carrying” mentalists can understand. Once we have their attention and their respect, then we can try using another language … the language of accommodation and maybe eventually the language of Love?

Jesus is my hero. This man talked the talk and truly walked the walk of Peace & Love. I think that Peace & Love is the goal … the Gold Standard … what we are ultimately striving for, but I think that God our Creator understands that being only mere mortals there will be times when we may have to resort to taking temporary detours along the road of getting to this end goal of Peace & Love. And in these instances, of temporary detours, I am so thankful for the brave men and women in our Armed Forces –Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coastguard, Border Patrol and all who serve -- who answer the call to serve and protect us, our great nation and all that our way of life stands for. May God Bless these men and women, one and ALL, for their willingness to lay their lives on the line, but May He especially Bless those –and those that they love-- who have given their lives in the line of duty. May we never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe these fallen brave whose sacrifice has given us the freedoms we enjoy so widely in our world today.

Peace & Love to you and yours this Memorial Day Weekend.


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