Bumps & Bullies

I hzane, honea, harlem, globetrotters, bullying, bullies, kidsad spent the day doing things I don’t normally do. For instance, I shaved. Also, I didn’t meet any of the deadlines that needed to be met (although a case could be made for this being relatively normal), and I regretfully declined an invitation that I had been looking forward to for weeks. I had plans that day, and it involved reading to a classroom full of first graders. I was, for lack of a better word, giddy.

Perhaps it was the anticipation of seeing my son’s face when I knocked upon the door, knowing that he would have just “won” a fixed game among his classmates—a game that left one child standing as their unexpected guest waited anxiously on the front stoop. That unexpected and anxious guest was going to be me. I was to be the Secret Reader, and I had practiced reading aloud all morning.

I checked my email one last time before leaving the house and found a note from Zane’s teacher. She apologized, but there was an assembly for the entire school scheduled at the same time as my pending arrival, and the secret reading was postponed. I had been bumped.

Of course I wasn’t mad, or bitter, I know all too well the way these things work, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sorely disappointed. I decided to go to the school as planned, and catch a bit of the assembly that ranked higher than my excitement. I hoped it wasn’t another fundraiser.

It turns out that all of the hoopla was for a Harlem Globetrotter named Scooter Christensen. Mr. Christensen was speaking to the entire school about “The ABCs of Bullying Prevention” and then spinning a basketball with his Jedi mind tricks. I must admit, it made me feel much better about my postponement—being bumped by a Globetrotter with a message is so much better than being replaced by someone pitching wrapping paper, candy bars, and “don’t forget to have your parents ask their coworkers!”

The message of Mr. Christensen focused on three points: action, bravery, and compassion (see, ABCs). Perhaps you recognize them from your own teachings. The children asked questions about his personal experience with bullies, and if he knew the Harlem Globetrotters that appeared on The Amazing Race (he did). Then they clapped in disbelief when the ball did things they believed a ball incapable of doing.

Action. Bravery. Compassion. Some things are easier than others.

Scooter Christensen pulled it off nicely.

Which leads me to today. Today (October 19) is Spirit Day, when millions of Americans wear purple to speak out against bullying, and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. It is a day of action, bravery, and compassion.

It took some digging, but I found a purple shirt in the respective closet of each of my sons, and we discussed the significance of wearing them in support of something bigger—a something bigger that starts at the smallest, most personal level. It starts with us.

Action, bravery, and compassion are a lot of words to pin on the simple sleeve of a t-shirt, but the strength of the message cannot be denied. There is no place for bullying in our schools, and the children have spoken.

I couldn’t have read them anything better.

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