I’ve been religiously following the story of Karen Klein, the bus monitor who was verbally abused and humiliated by a bunch of middle-schoolers from my hometown, Greece, NY. I have spent the last 15 years defending my hometown to those who live on the east side of the city. This story hasn’t helped my cause, much.
Why Greece should be cast in such a negative limelight is beyond me; it’s not as if bullying is limited to the boundaries of western New York, though it sometimes feels like it. Caleb was recently excommunicated from his lunch table by a bunch of bullies, who suddenly and inexplicably turned on him at the end of the year. He came home at the end of each day, eyes brimming with tears, with a story of a new name he was called. “Midget, little girl, midget lady…” And I was filled with righteous anger. Spankings were in order! We should line up these kids and berate them like drill sergeants! Their parents should be fined hundreds of dollars!
These kids are nine.
Instead of throwing a hissy fit and marching into Caleb’s school with purpose, I quietly reminded Caleb he was better than the way he was being treated, that kindness is always the best policy, and that summer was right around the corner. That he can’t control the way he is treated, but that he can control the way he responds. I read from the bible:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
“Burning coals on his head?”
Maybe that wasn’t the best verse to read.
In the interim, I have donated to Karen Klein’s “vacation” fund. I have cried. I cried for Caleb, and for kids who are too scared to speak up for what is right, and I cried for kids who are so weak that they spew evil things from their mouths in order to fit in. I cried because next year I have to put my babies on the bus, or rather, on the big yellow den of iniquities.
I threatened to homeschool.
I thanked God to be done with the public school experience, which wasn’t my favorite time of life.
I took courage in my faith, and in God’s word, which really has more wise words to say on the subject than the talking heads at Fox News, The Washington Post, and CNN.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Power, love, self-control, strength, courage, generosity, tenderness, sympathy, humility, justice- peace. If my children can foster even half of these attributes, they will be blessed.
Life is hard. And despite what those commercials say, it might not get better. But, if my kids live admirably and in accordance with the verses above, I believe God will bless them. If possible, so far as it depends on them, I will admonish my kids to live peaceably with all. And if they make the wrong choices anyway, then they will see the righteous anger.
See? People from Greece aren’t all bad. Also, we are a biodiverse community with many excellent Italian restaurants and lovely lakefront homes. So there you have it.