While on my walk the other day, I heard a bunch of yelling and laughter along with what I believed to be the sound of a body being slammed against something. I continued walking toward the noises to find four larger boys picking on a smaller, red-haired, freckle-faces kid, who was taking the thrashing without putting up any fight.
As I walked up on this, I cleared my throat and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” one of the boys doing the pushing and punching stated, adding, “We’re having fun, playing around.”
I looked at the kid being pushed and kicked and asked, “You having fun too?”
His eyes darted back and forth from the kids to me. I letting him off the hook by saying, “I didn’t think so.”
It was kind of stand-off for a few seconds before I spoke up: “Tell you what, instead of pushing, slapping, kicking and punching Red there – why don’t you pick on me?”
Surprise registered on their faces and they look around at each other.
“Besides, I’m about your size and I’m old to boot,” I smiled.
The taller boy bent down and picked up a rock, holding it as if he were going to use it. I could see a slight tremor in his arm as he kept it at the ready.
“So,” I asked, “Whose the leader here?”
The second tallest quickly pointed to the one kid who was about my size.
“Good to know,” I continued, “Because I’m going to ruin any chance of you playing a professional sport when I break your knee.”
Again, they looked at each other.
“And you, with the rock, when you hear his bones snap, you’ll run for home,” I stated as evenly as I could, “Then I’ll only have to contend with one of you – because one of you two will high-tail it to mommy and daddy’s too.”
I wagged my finger in a pointing-fashion at the two boys I was speaking about. The stand-off ended with name calling and me walking Red home.
Along the way he explained that his parents told him he was not to fight, “Besides, I’m afraid to get hurt.”
“And they weren’t hurting you when I stopped them?” I voiced. That’s when I took the opportunity to instruct him about how to handle bullies: “Wrap your arms around the leader and start kneeing him in the groin, punch him in the throat, stick your thumbs in his eyes — it’s a fight not a boxing match, so no ref’s going to blow a whistle and make you go to a neutral corner. Rules don’t count.”
“How do you know all this?” he asked.
“I was small once myself — still pretty short in fact,” I answered, smiling down at him.
“Oh, and you’re going to get hurt either way. Might as well make him hurt a little too,” I added as an after thought.
“You mean beat up?” the kid asked.
“That could happen, but he’ll think twice about picking on you again if you cause him some pain,” I explained, “Besides you know at least two of them really don’t have a heart to fight, so you won’t have to worry about them.”
As I told this too him, his mother pulled up along side of us and asked in a rather concerned voice, “What’s going on and who are you?”
Telling her my name, I let her know that her son is getting beat up on the way home from school and that I stopped it this time. She thanked me for helping her child.
“You know,” told her, “far be it from me to tell you how to raise this young man there, but telling him not to defend himself isn’t doing him justice.”
“You’re right,” she shot back angrily, “it really isn’t any of your business!”
“Okay,” I replied, turning to leave, adding “Oh and by the way, there’s a difference between fighting and defending one’s self. You ought to think about that before he gets seriously hurt. Take care of yourself, Red!”
Today as I walked the same path I saw the bully-leader without his three-pack. I laughed loud enough for him to hear as he crossed the road to avoid me.
As I rounded the corner, I ran into Red. He had a smile on his face from ear-to-ear.
“How’s it going, Red?” I asked.
Still beaming, “I did what you said. Knocked him down even made him cry.”
“Good for you,” I responded, “What’re your parents going to say?”
“Oh, I’m probably grounded for life,” he replied, “but I don’t care.”
“I’m happy for you,” I said, adding, “and I’m proud to know you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions. By the way, what’s your name?”
“Trevor,” he answered.
“Well, Trevor,” using his real name for the first time, “I christen thee ‘Trevor the Red.’”
We both laughed as he held his hand out for me to shake, which I gladly did. I’m expecting to hear from either him mom or dad or both one of these days as I stretch my legs, but I’m not worried as I did right by Red.