The discussion at Rebecca’s post on Bullying over at FMH reminded of my darkest days… Middle School.
To understand my tale you’ll need some background info (also see this post). My parents were both raised in Southern California and converted to the church in the late 60s (thanks to tracting no less). They had one son at the time and I was born a few years later. We moved to Southern Oregon in the 70s and four more children were born that decade. Then in the late 70s my mom suddenly had a massive stroke. We survived and she is healthy (though somewhat disabled) to this day, but you can imagine what a challenge it would be for a family with six children, five under the age of ten, to basically lose mom for a few years while she tried to learn how to walk and talk all over again. By the early 80s mom was recovering pretty well, though she remains largely paralyzed on her right side. My parents decided it was time to move back home to live by family again. We loaded up the truck and moved to San Diego.
That’s when my trouble started.
I was a popular enough sixth grader in Oregon. Life was pretty good I thought. I felt pretty good about myself. But a series of unfortunate circumstances ended that nice childhood bubble for me. First I got quite chubby as a 12 year old. I’ve never been chubby since but as a seventh grader I was. On top of that, I discovered we were poor! I never thought that in Oregon because everyone else was about like us. But in San Diego we were relatively poor – especially with dad trying to get a new business off the ground. Further, I had an Oregon sense of fashion which as it turned out could not have been dorkier. Combine that with the fact that I was a bit of a “pretty” kid, with naturally red lips and what some people at the time told me were “cow eyes”.
Ok, do you get the picture? On the first day of seventh grade in cool San Diego, a chubby, androgynous-lookin’ poor kid from Oregon with severely dorky clothes shows up on the scene. Needless to say I was an obvious and irresistible target for bullies.
Not that I was constantly picked on. I found some folks that were nice to me. But at some point in my time at that Middle School I became the favored target of a flunked-several-times kid named Mike. I don’t remember much other than the fact that he was post-pubescent and had a few cronies that followed him around. I do remember that I had PE with these guys. Among the indignities I suffered was getting my shirt ripped down the middle (especially humiliating to a chubby kid), being ridiculed for the fake Nike shoes I wore (donated by a charitable ward member), and having a big nasty wad of Mike’s chewing tobacco spit on my back (how did he manage to chew tobacco in school?)
Over time I became despondent. I had nowhere to turn. My mom was still trying to recover — I was just glad she knew my name again. My older brother was 18 and stayed in Oregon. My dad was trying to start a new business and keep our family together – I didn’t dare burden him more. What was I to do?
I remember quietly weeping in despair in my room the night after I had the chewing tobacco spit on me. In my mind’s eye I see that pathetic Mormon boy; that deacon feeling there was no one on earth to protect him. I see myself kneeling that night and begging God to help me… to rescue me. I also remember how it felt that night when I knew that I had “broken through” and God was at least listening. Just knowing he heard me was enough to keep me going.
The next day I reluctantly went to school again. I didn’t encounter Mike that day so I counted it a blessing. It wasn’t until we were waiting in line to get on the bus for home that I heard the news: Mike had been expelled from school that day.
Yep, you heard me right. It was the day after.
God got Mike expelled from my school… for me.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matt 21: 22)
I’m not going to say that Middle School was a breeze thereafter but I do know one thing – God is a very useful friend to have. I later learned something of the Abrahamic covenant that applied to my story:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee (Abr. 2:11)
Heirs of the Abrahamic covenant indeed…