She was lost in her own world. She could hear the noisy chatter of the other kids in the hallway but only as through water. It didn’t matter to her that Tasia was tossing a lunchbox over her head or that Marcus was whispering behind his hand. She was just about to depart on a fantastic journey into her vivid imagination when her ears picked up that dreaded name that had somehow become synonymous with her own. She hated it. She wanted to disappear and never be seen again.
Why did having glasses and a name you could bark mean that it had to redefine your existence as a 5th grader? “Four-eyed Dog-Face” was certainly not written on her birth certificate.
She figured it was some kind of payback for gym class.
The teacher was preparing them for the annual field day at the local college. As they formed two parallel lines to compete in the 50yd dash, she just hoped she wouldn’t trip and make a fool of herself in front of the entire class. In a flash, she realized not only was she at the front of the line with the teacher about to blow the whistle, but Marcus was her opponent. Marcus, the fastest boy in the class and quite possibly the meanest, would not let her forget it if… well, she’d just rather not think about that right then.
The whistle blew and she was off like a shot. She gathered speed running on the balls of her feet and only slowed after she crossed the finish line. She didn’t even notice she was the first to cross the line until her team was screaming for her. Her elation vanished as she took in the anger and rage on his face as Marcus promised to get even with her.
All the rest of the day and evening, she worried. “What if he grabs some buddies and corners me somewhere and I can’t get any help? What if he follows me home from school and waits until I’m all alone? What if… “
She worried herself right into staying home from school 3 whole days. Her mother could not figure out what in the world was wrong with her: no fever but a continuous headache.
Finally, she told her mom about the race and the threat. Her mom made a couple phone calls and much to her dismay, she found herself at school the next day.
She walked to her locker, hung up her things to the whispers. She sat down and got her things ready for class to start and was glad that the words quieted as the teacher began. She learned that any amount of time spent in the hallway or playground was an opportunity to hear those words that hurt more than any punches thrown.
She also learned to see others who were picked on and began to help them instead of listen to those lies.
That 5th grade girl grew up to one day have a classroom of her own. She couldn’t quite shake the hurt of the names so her heart was continually soft toward any hurts in her classroom or the playground. She built into her classroom the idea of a family. A family protects each other and doesn’t tear each other down. A family forgives even when hurt. A family is kind when others are not. A family is a safe place.
She later married. Recently, she heard her son scream at his sister some name he made up. The instant she heard it, she could almost hear those 5th grade names. She looked into their sweet blue eyes and spoke from her scabbed-over hurt that every single person is a special creation God has made. When you call them a name or make-fun of them, you are doing so to their Creator. It is not funny nor is it ever EVER okay to call names. No matter what friend thinks it is funny, do not ever join in making fun of someone else. Stop it, instead. Learn to see someone else’s bad day and encourage them instead of tear them down.
So that “Four-eyed Dog Face” girl is trying to plant seeds of tenderness in her own children… and maybe even open an eye or two by sharing this story on her blog.