I was reading today about a new study about how damaging bullying is, and I really never thought it applied to me, as I never bullied anyone in school. A few months back, though, a classmate died and everyone was saying how well-loved this man was. That was true as an adult, but not as a child.
As a child, he was a total outcast. I think it was a few years out of high school when he gained some recognition for work he did on racing car engines that he became cool and went on to become very cool in the racing world. (When he died, I googled him and some racing magazine called him an icon.)
One memory I had of him goes back to fifth grade when we went on a class picnic to the grandmother's house of another classmate who lived on this mini-estate on Long Island Sound. We weren't supposed to go in the house, but this kid did to go in the house to go to the toilet. When the girl whose grandmother's house it was found out that this kid had contaminated the place by peeing in the toilet, she was just shrieking. I so clearly remember that -- her absolute horror and disgust -- and thinking how disgusting it would be to have this kid pee in your toilet.
Fast forward to a week or so ago, and I was having lunch with two classmates from that time, and his name came up. Their memories of his being an outcast matched mine. I said, feeling a bit defensive, "Well, *we* didn't bully him." And we all nodded, but then my one friend said, "But we didn't stop it either."
I don't know if children have the power to stop it. I just remember totally, passively accepting the fact that he was the outcast. That's the way the world worked.
I did see him when I went to a reunion a few years back, and spoke with him (see, I'm trying to redeem myself!) Turns out he was dyslexic and that's why he was so "dumb" and didn't know he was dyslexic -- well, who knew back then? -- until he joined the Navy and they tested him.
My own passive behavior does bother me -- enough to write about it here -- and I do think about all those kids today who are suffering like he did.