bully me not

Every neighborhood has bullies. Ya know, those kids who lurk around the corners, skulking in the shadows. They’re usually bigger than you, and they have a posse of big, mean-looking kids. My neighborhood was no exception.

I hadn’t had a lot of run-ins with the bullies, but I’d heard about them. From my brother and other kids. I knew they existed.

One afternoon, my friend and I were riding our bikes around the neighborhood, looping around the streets that were within our parent-determined boundaries. We turned down one street and saw a group of kids on their bikes lined up across the street. At the time, it seemed like there were half a dozen of them, but it was probably more like 3-4.

My friend’s eyes grew wide. “No way,” she mumbled, shaking her head. She turned her bike around and hightailed back down the street and around the corner.

I didn’t.

The bullies had seen me. I wasn’t going to run away like some little kid. (Because obviously, at 9, I was over halfway to being an adult.) These kids were tormenting the other kids in the neighborhood, including my brother. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of having that power over me. (Plus, I was a girl and a lot smaller than them. They’d get in major trouble for bothering me.)

I rode toward them, my heart in my throat, my bike wobbling (which was not an unusual occurrence. I was a horrible bike-rider). I debated whether to look straight at them in defiance or ignore them completely. I think I ended up with a combination of the two.

Aiming my bike for the small space on the right, I rode toward the line of miscreants. They didn’t make room for me, but they also didn’t threaten me. I rolled past in silence. When I got to the end of the street and around the corner, I breathed a sigh of relief. My friend was waiting for me, her eyes still huge, grateful to see I’d made it out in one piece.

I wasn’t the kind of kid you’re thinking. I wasn’t the one who spoke my mind, boldly sharing my opinions. I was quite shy. I hardly talked to anyone except my friends. I was scared to use a phone for fear I’d call a wrong number and upset a stranger.

But I have this thing about bullies, especially when they harass my friends. I’m protective of the people I care about. Heck, I’m protective of people I don’t even know. If I see someone being threatened or struggling in some way, I can’t walk away. I’m ten times more likely to stand up for someone else than I am to stand up for myself.

We all have bullies, even as adults. There are people who belittle us, who make us feel like a little kid on a wobbling bike. But even a little kid on a wobbling bike can stand up to bullies.

Don’t take it any more. Stand up to those meanies.

I’ll be the kid on the wobbling bike riding right beside you.

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