You don’t have to be young to be a bully

The Covington News - - LIFESTYLE -

Early last spring, a young lady who was a high school se­nior was an in­tern in The Cov­ing­ton News news­room. She came in a few af­ter­noons a week, was will­ing to try any­thing and was al­ways cheer­ful. She en­ter­tained us with her sto­ries about high school.

One day she sat down at what she thought was her com­puter and dis­cov­ered that some­one had played mu­si­cal chairs with the com­put­ers again (some­thing that hap­pens of­ten at The News). Her old screen saver was a pic­ture of her puppy. That pic­ture was lost in com­puter space, and she ex­claimed that she now had a funny new screen saver, some old Mayan ruin.

None of us could fig­ure out what she was talk­ing about, so I got up to look at her com­puter screen. The pic­ture on it was of Stone­henge.

I just lost it and screeched at her (I was a life­long Brit Lit teacher, af­ter all). How could she not know what Stone­henge was, I asked.

Ev­ery­one else in the news­room was laugh­ing, not at the young woman, but at my reaction.

I have to say that the young lady was more of an adult than I was.

She good-na­turedly ad­mit­ted that she had no idea what Stone­henge was and calmly ac­cepted my apol­ogy.

I prom­ise you that as soon as I came to my senses, I apol­o­gized and apol­o­gized a few more times over the course of a week.

I also brought her some pic­tures and ex­pla­na­tions of why Stone­henge is such an im­por­tant his­toric site.

And I gave her a gift cer­tifi­cate for fast food.

Stone­henge is a pre- his­toric mon­u­ment on the chalk plains of Sal­is­bury in Eng­land. It is older than the pyra­mids. The builders of the henge (There were other henges all over north­ern Europe, some wooden and some stone) used tech­niques they were not sup­posed to know, tech­niques that other civ­i­liza­tions did not uti­lize un­til much later. And the civ­i­liza­tion that built Stone­henge is pretty much a mys­tery to mod­ern his­to­ri­ans, as is the pur­pose of Stone­henge.

Some peo­ple claim it was a place of sac­ri­fices; some claim it’s a gi­ant cal­en­dar of sorts that could pre­dict lu­nar events. Some claim it was it was the site of the Druid re­li­gion.

But the site pre­dates the Druids.

It is not the young lady’s fault that no one ex­posed her to that in­for­ma­tion. And I am not blam­ing her teach­ers. To­day’s teach­ers have to teach to the test, and I am sure Stone­henge was not on the test.

But that in­ci­dent has never sat eas­ily on my con­science. I acted like a bully.

News­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion sta­tions are quick to jump on the most re­cent cases of bul­ly­ing that oc­cur in schools, and schools should be rightly vig­i­lant about such in­ci­dents.

But all in­ci­dents of bul­ly­ing are not sensa- tional and do not re­sult in in­jury or loss of life.

And all don’t oc­cur among stu­dents in schools.

Most in­ci­dents oc­cur with­out a rip­ple, as those who are bul­lied just ac­cept their fate. They soon be­lieve that they de­serve the bul­ly­ing and ac­cept it as the norm.

We, as adults, need to mon­i­tor our­selves. We need to be aware that we are set­ting an ex­am­ple for those who look up to us.

Some­times, we are tired and want to take the quick­est way to get some­thing done. Some­times we are hurt and want to hurt some­one back. Some­times we think we are jok­ing and do not re­al­ize the per­son who is the butt of the joke does not see the hu­mor.

Some­times we bully oth­ers to build up our own self-con­fi­dence. Some­times we are the boss and want to re­in­force that fact.

In­ad­ver­tent or de­lib­er­ate — ei­ther way, bul­ly­ing hurts.

And we are do­ing our col­leagues, chil­dren and friends no fa­vors by teach­ing those around us to be bul­lies and un­der­cut­ting any self-con­fi­dence those who are bul­lied have.

In my old age, I no longer see things starkly as right or wrong. I find my­self em­pathiz­ing with both sides of a prob­lem. I hope I am be­com­ing a kin­der and gen­tler per­son.

Paula Travis is a re­tired teacher from the New­ton County School Sys­tem. She can be reached at ptravis@ cov­news.com.

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