Monday, December 5, 2011

I Was Like This Kid, You Were Too



I was the scrawny, socially awkward kid at the back of the class who either talked too much, or didn't know what to say.  I was the one with bizarre fashion sense who was always nearly failing, but squeaked through because I could 're-read' the text books in my head during tests.  I was the kid who was never interested in what they were teaching because I either 'blanked out' when dealing with numbers (math/accounting/physics/chemistry) or, for a lot of other subjects had already read everything I could get my hands on, or thought they were teaching at a 'baby level'.  After an IQ test (still legal back then!) they 'accelerated' me to a grade above, but that just made the bullying worse and I 'flunked myself' back to the class I had friends in.

I got bullied on and off through grade and high schools until I figured out 'that look' aggressors got on their face when they were going to 'go aggro,' as the Aussies say, and began to learn to joke, cajole, or -- in worst case scenarios -- act crazy enough to scare them off!

In so many ways our current 'PC' (politically correct) culture is producing the exact opposite effects of what today's grossly over-protective 'helicopter parents' intend.  While parents are sending the message that 'every child is special' and needs to be protected from the bad feelings associated with losing or failing, there are bullies, often with parents who are no different than their victims' parents, teaching them what life is REALLY like: grossly unfair, brutal, highly prejudiced. 

The way that overly protective parents enable this is by insisting on pretending that all kids are equal in all respects, although they realize, rationally and practically, that this clearly isn't the case.  When you set up a facade that 'all kids are equal,' the first ones to take advantage of the smokescreen are those sorely lacking in empathy.  And here's some news, empathy has to be imposed upon kids at a certain stage of their maturation.  I'm almost overly empathetic today, but there was a time I experimented with pushing smaller kids around and got caught by dad tossing a large toad off a bridge with a plastic bag parachute.  The spanking I earned for the latter error in judgment taught me something about how doing something unacceptable to society brings personal suffering. 

Not even 'your little Johnny' comes pre-packaged with a full understanding and range of empathetic reactions.  When kids are abused at home, they abuse at school.  I certainly tried bullying on for size because I didn't like taking it and wanted to find out if giving it out was as much fun as it seemed to the highly motivated bullies in my neighbourhood.  Bullying turned out to be a non-starter for me, but then I wasn't suffering abuse at home every night, so I had little to 'take out' on other victims.
Today's a new day.  Reach out and try to help someone.  Anyone.  No matter what they look like OR what they're addicted to.  What we know today about addiction means that it is 100% true that "There but for the grace of God go you", and you have very likely evidenced addictive problems if you've ever:
  • Shopped just because it gave you a lift, 
  • Gotten too tanned just because the endorphins made you feel 'healthy', 
  • Taken a bet just because you couldn't resist the thrill of the outcome, 
  • Drank alone to the point of passing out on the couch,
  • Had a problem getting off the nicotine, or codeine, or Oxycontin, 
  • Passed and stayed over your healthy body mass index upper limit,
  • Obsessed over some stupid thing that really was of no consequence to your life,
If you've NEVER done anything like the behaviours on this list, you can look down at others and not help, but otherwise it's the obligation of all fellow members of the human race to reach out and help someone.

In Toronto, help the abused, troubled kids who are on the street through no fault of their own:

1-800-435-7308

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