Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Bully at Blue Creek Elementary School

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After hearing those three words THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!, life as I knew it was never the same. It put me directly in the path of discovering courage I never knew I had. Sometimes we are put in that position in order to move up to the next level. The opportunity to overcome adversity with this kind of courage sometimes strikes when we least expect it.

A week after Mrs. Jordan belted out those three words; I was out on the playground during lunch recess. It was a beautiful spring day. Skies were clear and the warm, gentle breeze was blowing across the landscape. I always loved the spring. It always put me in a good mood. I felt as if the warm spring breeze caressed my face, giving me the feeling that I was being taken care of.

Ten minutes into lunch recess I saw David, the class bully sauntering towards me. He walked with a cocky swagger, his lips pursed like Elvis Presley. It was typical of an undefeated bully in those days. Up to that point he had literally beaten up everyone else in the whole school, except for me. Not that I was tough or anything but he left me alone for some reason.

Today must be my turn, I thought. My body went rigid with tension. I didn't dare move. With steady eyes, I watched him approach me.

My eyes did a quick dart around – the other kids were fast forming a circle around me like a bunch of spectators at Madison Square Garden. There was just enough room for David to enter the circle.

As soon as he made his grand entrance, the circle closed up immediately. It was almost as if the other kids didn't want to let either of us to get away without first shedding some blood.

My heart quickened with each step he made towards me. I licked my lips and didn’t dare move. I had no idea what I was going to do or say.

I slowly turned my head to face the bully. He was still on his way with a sneer on his face.

Almost as if some unseen force took over, I suddenly shoved my right palm upward, like a traffic policeman.

Thrown off guard, the bully slowed to a crawl.

I licked my lips some more.

Back in those days, I wore a hearing aid box that was harnessed by a strap that wrapped around my chest. It was an albatross that shouldered the hearing box in place. There were two hearing aid cords that ran from the hearing aid box up to both ears. Although the box was underneath my shirt, its rectangular shape stuck out like a sore thumb. It looked as if I had just stepped off a spaceship.

Back to the bully. In the next instant my life was forever changed.

Dripping with sarcasm, I pointed to my chest and said, “Kid, do you see this hearing aid box? “

The bully snickered some more and cackled like the cruel witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” As he was doing that, his eyes briefly flickered. No one else noticed it but I did. It gave me a little more courage.

I raised my voice another notch and told him, “IF YOU PUNCH THIS BOX, IT'LL BLOW UP THE WHOLE SCHOOL!” My hands clapped like thunder, startling the bully.

His face turned paper white with widening eyes. He slowly took one step back and then another and then another. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the circle was once again opening up behind him.

Then he did something that forever ruined his rough and tumble image.

He ran home as fast as his legs would carry him!

I folded my arms across my chest and triumphantly watched the figure of David grow smaller and smaller. Then I looked around at the other kids – they were laughing, clapping and whooping. Others were vigorously rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

Wow! Did I really defeat the bully? I had just whipped his ass without having to lay a hand on him. Man, how was that possible?

Well, would you believe I became the most popular kid in the whole school after that? My confidence soared like never before. All of a sudden everyone wanted to be my friend.

Sometimes we find out that we have courage when we’re tested. We never want to be tested like this because when we think about it, it’s very scary but it does happen and we’re all stronger because of the adversial experience.

The story illustrates the power of how someone else can make a difference in our lives. My fifth grade teacher told me years later that she had no idea how much of an impact she made on my life in her classroom the week before the bully incident. If she hadn’t called on me and thundered THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN! The bully might have beaten me to a bloody pulp.

Who knows?

FYI, I now have a keynote speech called "That's Right Stephen!" for speaking engagements. You can read the description by going here.

Let me ask you this: Have you taken a moment to REMEMBER who made a difference in your life today? Write that person a thank you note. Drop in unexpectantly and say hello!
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Anonymous Corinne Edwards said...

You are the one who made a difference in my life today!

So I am writing to say -


4:03 PM  
Blogger Stephen J. Hopson said...


When I wrote that story, I was practically a kid again, reliving the moment exactly as it happened.

I often wonder if the bully realized how he actually helped shape the course of my future on that day!

Thanks for letting me know I made a difference in your life today.


4:12 PM  

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