Love your neighbor


Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.



“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  I heard that a lot while growing up…

When I was a kid, I really wasn’t very popular.  It didn’t help that my family was poor, but add to that the fact that I was a scrawny little kid, way too small for my age.  You know the type… the one to be the last chosen for the team in PE… the one without many friends on the playground… but I can’t say that I ever felt the kind of “bullying” that kids experience today. 


It helped that I had my big sister who watched over and protected me.  At home, we fought like cats and dogs and even put tape down the middle of our bedroom floor at least once to separate the space!  But, you better leave me alone, or you would face her wrath… Not that she was a bully either, but she was an overseer, my protector.  When a younger schoolmate spit on me at recess one day, she let her know that if she messed with me, she was gonna soon mess with her.  I saw Carol many years later in Wal-Mart and we had a nice conversation… neither of us brought up the playground scenario!

Back then (not that I will ever admit that I am o-l-d) kids knew if they got in trouble at school, they were going to get in trouble at home.  Parents called parents… parents looked out for other people’s kids, too.   Life didn’t require a household to have two incomes to survive and more women were stay-at-home moms who were involved in their kid’s daily routines.  School leaders didn’t stick their head in the sand either when made aware of a problem.

One of the most frightening experiences of my life happened in the first grade.  The old Glendale School was down in a valley between two steep hills.  I was dilly dallying and my siblings had all started home without me.  Cousins from a prominent family in our community decided to grab the big bow tied on the back of my dress and use them as reigns.  I would go forward and they would pull me back . . . I would go forward and they would pull me back . . .  It was a situation where the opportunity just arose and it became a game to them.  I don’t think they ever knew how badly they frightened me!   They had their fun and that was the end of it.  The situation was never repeated, but I never forgot it.


But situations like that made me feel inferior and it wasn’t until many years later, when I was a wife, mother and career woman with a real estate license that I felt good about myself and felt like I had a lot to offer society.

Ironically, very recently, I have exchanged emails with another grade school classmate and we’ve had fun talking about old times and what life has offered us.  He wrote me an email recently and said in part, “I'm going to be honest.  When I look back at our growing up in East Peoria, even if we all were ‘equal’, we still had classes.  I know for a fact that there were times I was rude to you, and to Tom, never out of any desire to hurt you guys, but simply because your family was poor.  My family wasn't rich by any means, but we were some kind of upper class in that world.  And if you remember any of that, I want to apologize if my behavior ever let you down.  Because it's so obvious what a good hearted person you are, and patient, and you do care.  I think I've carried some guilt over that all my life, because I have seen how such stuffy behavior is destructive.  Thank you so much for being there and for helping me now.”


I got a chance to outgrow those feelings of inferiority.  I got a chance to make friends with many of those who looked down on me all those many years ago…


It’s different now days.  Kids are relentless.  When they find an underdog, they go for it, and go for it, and go for it.  Leaders create followers and soon the underdog (target) is an outcast.  Bullying is abuse!  It can be habitual and usually involves a situation that is perceived as an imbalance of power.  Bullying can be verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion.  It is usually directed at someone based on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality or ability.  Bullying can happen anywhere: face-to-face, by text messaging, e-mail or social networking. 


Bullying has become a significant problem among young people today.  It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. 15% of all absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.  It is estimated that one in seven students is either a bully or a victim.  Over half of all students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.


Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.


Victims feel angry, sad, lonely and depressed.  Victims feel isolated and often have no friends.  Many feel helpless and fear they can’t talk to anyone about this, even their parents. One out of every 10 students who drop out of school does so because of repeated bullying.

Many kids keep bullying a secret.  They are taught not to tattle.  They’ve seen others tell adults and nothing was done about it.  They are afraid telling will make the situation worse.  They are embarrassed and often feel ashamed because they can’t stand up for themselves.  They love their parents and want to protect them from worry and anxiety.


Bullying causes a “toxic shame” that make the victims feel flawed and inadequate.


Bullying often leads to depression…  Targets carry this depression into their adult lives.  Depressed people feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worthless…


Patrick James Newbury was a target, a victim of bullying.  As a kid, Patrick was overweight; he had weight loss surgery at the age of seventeen.  He lost the weight, but he did not gain the self-esteem that had been taken from him by those who bullied him because of his size.


By the time Patrick was 21, he had moved from Illinois to Yuma, Arizona in hopes of finding a better job, a better life..  He was living with his grandmother.  He had other family members nearby and still had a wonderful relationship with his immediately family back in Illinois, but in Patrick’s mind, I believe he felt all alone.  He had been so beaten down as a child that he could not climb out of a major depression. 


Patrick was such a wonderful kid.  He was a kind soul.  I wish I had known my great-nephew better, but for the past 9 years, I have lived several hours away from our home town.  When Patrick was in a serious car accident in the fall of 2009, I sent a card.  I chatted with him on Facebook and tried to encourage him to work hard in his physical therapy.  Somehow, now that doesn’t seem like much.  It certainly doesn’t feel like enough.

Patrick’s final post on his Facebook page was “mad props to me for finding my grandmas diamond earring in the road a block away from her house at 1 am.”  I saw that post… It wouldn’t have taken much for me to say, “Atta boy!” but I didn’t.  Only one friend responded about what a great thing he had done.


Eight days later, Patrick wandered over to the canal… a place that he had visited many times with his late grandfather.  Perhaps he talked to him.  Perhaps he talked to God.  But in the end, Patrick felt all alone, and he was all alone when he ended his life sitting on the bank of that canal.


Family and friends alike were shocked and horrified.  My little granddaughter, Jordan, 4, loved and adored her big cousin.  He once carried her all around Wildlife Prairie Park on his shoulders.  Her daddy couldn’t take off work that day, so Patrick played “Daddy for a Day”.  When Jordan was told that “PJ” had gone to heaven, her response was, “But I want him to come back!”


We all want him to come back. 


His friends posted on his FB page how much they loved him and will miss him. “You were as much a brother to me as my own.”  “We will all miss you incredibly.”  “I’m so very sad that you are gone.” “You were an awesome friend.”  “…It just seems impossible that you’re gone.”  “Some of my best memories as a kid was with you living across the street.”   “You were such a nice person.  You will be missed by many.”  “You were such a respectful young man, always a kind or friendly word to say…always smiling when you saw me.”  “It’s hard to believe you’re gone, I really miss seeing you at work.  You were always there, calling my name every time you saw me and you’d give me a big hug.  We used to talk about anything and I didn’t know it was this bad.  I wish I was there when you needed a friend.  A piece of my heart goes with you and I will miss you forever.”  “I know you are no longer sad, you are in a more beautiful place with no worries.”

We all wish we were there when he needed a friend. 


What about the next kid?  Kids, when you go to school and you see the target being bullied, are you going to go to the next table because you want to avoid being linked to the target and maybe becoming a target yourself?  Or, are you going to take a stand against bullying if you see it happening to someone else? 


Psalm 34:12-18 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. ...


Take a stand!  Don’t join in.  Make it clear that you do not support what is going on.  Support the person being bullied and offer to either go with them to report the bullying or report it for them.  Talk to an adult that you trust!
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


Educators must step up and implement effective bully prevention initiatives in the schools. 

Parents, if you suspect that your child is being bullied, you must be willing to take action.  Help your children understand the dangers of bullying. Give guidance about how to stand up to those who bully if it is safe to do so.  If you think your child might be bullying others, work closely with school leaders to resolve the situation.  Don’t make excuses for them, or pretend to not notice.  Remember that children who bully are at a high risk for engaging in risky or even criminal behaviors. 


Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.


If you are the next kid, speak up.  Tell your bully to STOP.  Tell an adult you trust.  Stay with a group as much as possible. Act like you don’t care, even if you really do.  Remember, you are not alone and it isn’t your fault.  There is nothing wrong with YOU, but there is something terribly wrong with the person who thinks this kind of behavior is acceptable. 


Psalm 34:17-18 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.


Patrick’s parents didn’t stick their head in the sand, either.  They sought help…  For Patrick, in spite of the love of his family and the support they offered, depression became a daily struggle.  As a young adult, Patrick moved to Arizona, hopeful that he would find a better job.  His parents thought the therapist that Patrick was working with was making a difference in his life, that he was being helped.  But Patrick could not overcome the feelings within that bullying had caused.   


For Patrick, let’s speak out!  Let’s take a stand!  Make time to listen… Take time to talk.  The most effective bullying prevention involves cooperation among teachers, schools, parents and communities. 


Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.


We can’t bring PJ back from heaven, but in his memory, we can build a legacy!  We can step out, we can speak out.  We CAN make a difference.


Rest in peace, Patrick James, and know that we will keep your memory alive and we WILL make a difference.




Bullying is when one person, or a group of people, repeatedly do things to hurt someone else.  Bullying can include:

    • Name-calling, threats or teasing
    • Playing mean or embarrassing jokes or tricks.
    • Saying mean things about someone or never letting them join in activities.
    • Punching, pinching, shoving, hitting, choking, biting or spitting.

If you see someone being bullied:

    • Don’t laugh.  Say, “This isn’t OK.”
    • Try to help the person who is being bullied, try to walk away.
    • If the bullying doesn’t stop, tell an adult.  Remember that asking for help is not the same as tattling.


(Journeyworks Publishing)


Only In the past two decades has depression in children been taken very seriously.  The depressed child may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that the parent may die.  Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative, grouchy or misunderstood.  Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is going through a temporary ‘phase’ or is suffering from depression.  Sometimes the parents become worried about how the child’s behavior has changed, or a teacher mentions that your child’s behavior has changed, or a teacher mentions that ‘your child doesn’t seem to be himself.’  In such a case, if a visit to the child’s pediatrician rules out physical symptoms, the doctor will probably suggest that the child be evaluated, preferably by a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of children.  If treatment is needed, the doctor may suggest that another therapist, usually a social worker or a psychologist, provide therapy while the psychiatrist will oversee medication if it is needed.”  National Institute of Mental Health



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Written August 2011