Does the name Scut Farkus ring a bell? Scut was the resident bully on the 1983 movie, A Christmas Story. He played the part quite well. He was the stereotypical bully that has been a part of school since the inception of public education. I saw a quote today about the concept of school bullying that was personally convicting. It reminded me that bullying goes well beyond the realm of mean kids like Scut Farkus that threaten to beat up anyone that crosses into their marked out territory.
When I was in school, I shunned the guy on our high school debate team who was not inclined to be well groomed, or wear clothes like the rest of us wore at that time. I poked fun of another friend that I worked with because he was extremely anal retentive. The poking moved beyond what would be considered playful jabbing. It was hurtful. It affected the way he perceived me in later years.
My own debate partner one year was a very serious minded and religious individual. He was younger and much smaller than me, so I made him sleep on the floor on debate trips. I took the hotel room bed for myself. He was excluded from extracurricular social activities that some of us put together after debate tournaments, because we did not perceive him to be cool.
Perhaps what concerns me more is what I failed to do during those formative high school years. I failed to be alert to those that were struggling. I paid no attention whatsoever to students that had physical disabilities. The concept of trying to include someone that was on the outside socially was not at the top of my priority list. All I was concerned about was my own place on the Monterey High School social food chain. I was a bully masquerading as a nice guy.
I think my kids’ generation will do better. They are more tuned into the diversity of our world. They have a greater awareness of those that have disabilities. They certainly are not inclined toward racism.
Regardless of our age or background we can all do better about reaching out those that are in need of a little encouragement. Here is my list. It is not exhaustive. There are many things that need to be added.
• Think inclusive. You have some social plans. Who needs to be included? Who would benefit from an invitation? There is nothing quite like being invited. I remember some cool seniors taking me to lunch the Monday after my partner and me won at a debate tournament. I still remember where we ate that day! I felt included. I felt accepted. Think inclusive.
• Be Friendly How hard is it to speak to someone in the hallway? It could make a huge difference to someone that feels excluded. You never know who that person might be!
• Be complimentary When I was a junior in high school, a big group of us went to the mall. I bought some new clothes with money I had earned at my first job! Kim, who I thought was gorgeous, complimented me on my new threads. That has been 33 years ago now. I still remember what store we were in and what was said after all of these years. Words are powerful.
• Be Intolerant Don’t tolerate bullying. Don’t put up with it. Step up and speak up for those that can’t defend themselves. There is nothing like positive peer pressure. I recall my friend Doug doing this in the 6th grade. I have never forgotten it. He prompted me to do better.
• Stop the Naval Staring Get your mind off of yourself long enough to consider the needs and concerns of others around you. There are things more important than our position on the social food chain.
I hope this is a great school year. But I know it can be a better one if we choose to be inclusive instead of being a bully masquerading as a nice guy. Who knows what difference you could make in someone’ life?