I've told this story before on my personal blog, but I'm too lazy to go looking for the original text. It's a story I will never forget, so it's not hard to remember details.
When I was in 8th grade, I was bullied by a group of kids in my grade. I was not the only one. That same crowd of kids targeted another girl, Kathy. She had a very sweet face, long black hair, a quiet voice, and a very generous bosom. For reasons I could not fathom, she did not wear a bra. She often wore a knit powder blue t-shirt. It attracted attention. She was not a skinny girl, so phys. ed. was particularly bad for her, especially when she had to run laps. I used to wonder why her parents just didn't buy her proper attire, but looking back, I wonder if it was a matter of them not being able to provide those things.
People snickered behind her back and to her face. They taunted her and called her names. However, one of the worst things she endured was when, during a group project, Kathy "accidentally" got glue in her hair. That long black hair, almost to her waist, with glue in it. I remember the name of the boy who did it.
A target for bullying myself, I felt her pain, yet I never said a thing in her defence. In my own immaturity and selfishness, I didn't want to be seen to befriend her because I wanted to keep as low a profile as possible. In my own stupidity, despite knowing that those people were not worth being friends with, I still wanted their acceptance. I don't remember ever having a conversation with her. I was glad when junior high ended.
My high school was big; 2500 students strong. It was so easy to simply slip into anonymity. It was a clean slate, and I forgot about Kathy until one day in 11th grade when I was in the cafeteria. I said hello to her and as she smiled at me, I was taken aback at how pretty her smile was. I'll never forget her saying to me, "I didn't think you'd remember my name."
Kathy, I will never forget.
All these years later, I still remember her face clearly, and I still feel regret for not having reached out to her in friendship. I knew the pain she was going through and I did nothing to show her my sympathy.
I won't forget also because this kind of conduct never really goes away. Teenage bullies often grow into adult bullies. Perhaps the strategy changes, but there are still those who exclude others, belittle others, try to control others, and look down on others. And there are still times when, in an effort not to be rejected by whatever group we belong to, we don't reach to others, or we don't defend those who are bullied. I can't forget Kathy because I see the same kind of thing still happening. I want that memory to remind me that I need to be kind and show love. I need to reach out to others, something I don't find easy, because I generally find it difficult to trust others. But I have to try.
As Christians, love and kindness ought to be part of our daily expression. Yet, we fail. I fail. But it can be something as simple as saying hello, smiling at someone, and making eye contact. It means remembering that we are to esteem others better than ourselves, not try to reduce them. It means remembering that we are all created in God's image. Within the context of the Church, it means that we are part of the same body. Who abuses her own body? Or dismisses it when it is in pain? It means thinking outside of ourselves and our own desire for attention and approval. Particularly with using social media, we can spend a lot of time courting the favour of the important people; the popular people. But do we reach out to those around us who really need friendship?
I hope Kathy has a good life today. I hope she has friends and family. I pray she found Christ. Maybe she was already a Christian, and had I got to know her, I would have found that out. Wherever she is, I pray God's blessing upon her.