Who Are You?

Once, in high school, oh so many years ago, I was standing and talking to a couple of girls who I must have considered to be somewhat friendly with. I mean, why else would I be standing and talking to them? They were wearing cheer uniforms. I can’t remember if they were cheerleaders or Raiderettes, but I remember the uniforms. Anyway, we were standing right under the second floor walkway. We were laughing about something, and all of a sudden a huge gob of spit/phlegm landed on my shoulder from above. There was laughter, but the offender was nowhere to be seen. I remember one of the girls laughing, and the other saying “Gross!”

I recently asked on Facebook how long was too long to carry a grudge. I asked if it is better to mention a hurtful incident to a perpetrator now after so long, or to let it go. The majority said to let it go and not mention it.

I just finished reading a book about a high school shooting. Things festered and finally boiled over into gunfire. The final straw was someone having their headphones jerked out of their ears. The book was about the long lasting effects the shooting had on everyone, even those who weren’t shot. And how more than the shooting, it was the little things before the shooting that haunted these people so much. People wondering if maybe they’d stood up for a bullied victim just once, would the shooting have been avoided. If that one girl had apologized for tripping another, would they have avoided the nightmare that eventually happened.

It got me to thinking. I think even the nicest among us had that someone that we weren’t so nice to. I can think of one guy who everyone thought was so great. Such a nice guy, always smiling, always friendly. A guy who would never make anyone else uncomfortable. They never saw him picking at that one poor kid who never looked at anyone wrong. They never saw him making lewd sexual taunts to the kid. Or the cheerleader who was known the complete opposite of what most cheerleaders were perceived to be. Would her image have been tarnished if people heard her calling another girl fat behind her back? Or would that cheerleader have felt bad had she known that the overweight girl actually did hear the comment?

This goes the other way, too. A good many kids were seen as bullies. Most of them deserved the reputation. But what about that one who, when by himself, saw another kid ready to jump off of a bridge, and stopped to talk to him, to get him to sit down, and think about things? How would that act of kindness altered the bully’s life?

We think that after 25 years, we should be over these things. We think they should be forgotten. After all, we’ve grown, and we’re not those people anymore. But is it true? Have we changed that much? I see some of the bullies from high school are now on Facebook. I read some of the comments they make or look at some of their pictures, and I think “She’s still as much of a bitch as she ever was.”

The truth is that a lot of people carry that pain with them for a lifetime. One or two incidents, sure, maybe we can forget those. But when you go through your entire high school career facing that crap every day, it’s kind of hard to forget it, even 25 years later.

There is a Facebook friend who I adore. She was one of a very small few who I never, ever saw belittle anyone, and who actually stood up for the bullied more than once. Sadly, I think this type of person is far too few to be found. Then, there’s the second type. The bully who apologizes years later, and turns out to be a very decent chap, one who is actually enjoyable to relate to, even if it is on the internet.

But there are also those who will probably never be forgotten or forgiven. The ones who probably still don’t see anything wrong with what they did. The ones who, if told that their child was bullying someone, would grin and say “Kids will be kids,” and then laugh about it with the child.

There are three names from Stroman and one from Bandera who will always be that bully to me. People who, if they were to apologize to me today, I’d turn my back on them. Because I think they fall in to that last category. Which makes it all moot, because since they fall in to the last category, they’d never actually apologize.

Anyway, my point to this is that you never know when something you’ve said or done is going to come back at you. You have no way of knowing how something you say now will still have a negative impact on someone’s self esteem 25 years later. Because, yes, I’m still haunted by that spit. If I go someplace where people are standing at a higher level, I’m unable to enjoy myself because I’m watching for spitters or looking for another place to stand.

But it’s about more than high school. It’s about now. Think before you speak. Think before you act. The only time it’s too late to take it back is after you’ve done it. Shootings don’t just happen in high school. They happen in college. They happen in the work place. They happen in nursing homes.

Words hurt. Actions hurt.

Even 25 years later.

So, to anyone that I’ve ever said a hurtful word to or done something mean to, I apologize. Sincerely. I’m still bothered by a few words said years ago, so I can imagine that something I’ve done can still bother someone. So, again, whether you’re a real life friend, an old friend, or just an internet acquaintance, I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt you.

Now let’s get this party started!

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