I had a 40th grade school reunion about a week ago. A few traveled from out of state: all the way from California and two from Texas. Several drove hours from Illinois and the outskirts of Missouri. It was nice that those who came made the effort.
I personally was impressed with one classmate. One who was bullied—it wasn’t called that back then, but that’s what it was… I feel shame for not being brave enough to have put an end to it. Or for not truly being her friend. I was kind of dumb.
I think about my own kids and how they were brave enough to help the underdog. I thank God that I at least taught them better. I found out years later that my own baby had been picked on in high school… she never told me then. But talk about a heart breaker.
I’m not a poet, so my critique friends gave me a few tips. Thank you.
This poem could be for my daughter too, but I wrote it for my classmate.
I could never be that brave.
Day after day after day
Ugly words slapping her face.
Nearly everyone participated
in some shape or form.
I don’t know how
she held her head high.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me.”
They hurt me just watching.
I wasn’t brave.
I didn’t stand up and
say, “Stop it. Leave her alone.”
Darkness settled near me, I feared I’d be next.
No, I wasn’t brave.
I wondered when she got home
from school whether she dreamed
of a better life. Did she write in her diary
who she hated, anger filling page after page?
Or were the pages soaked
from tears spilling out, endlessly?
Because sticks and stones…
words do hurt.
There are choices
wallow in self-pity, or pick up
all the pieces and put yourself back together again.
Make a difference in the world.
To be so brave.
I’ve always admired
and will always admire
her beauty, her strength