Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes

During my recent time in the hospital, I reconnected with an old friend from high school. Shawn visited just about every day. We reminisced about our time in high school. He remembered the times when I was belittled and sometimes bullied because of some of my challenges, from my speech that sometimes prevented me from getting the words out that I wanted to say to my appearance because of my scoliosis. Shawn wondered how I let that roll off my back and continued to smile through everything.

I explained to him my reasoning behind my personality.

Just think about what must be happening in THEIR lives, I said. They must have been bullied themselves, either at home or in school. I never took anything anyone did or said to me personally. I did my best and still do my best to see bullying and belittlement from another perspective. I put myself in their shoes. I feel bad for them, because just think about all that negative energy they carry around with them. It has to be released in some way. And unfortunately, many of us don’t have a constructive way to do so. To my advantage, I found my creative outlet.

 

I spent my nights after dinner while in school writing. That became my outlet. It was how I released my own negative energy. And it worked for me. If I hadn’t had that, who knows?  I don’t think I’d have ever become a bully having experienced it myself all through grammar school and high school to a degree. I always had too much empathy to to consider belittling anyone.

 

I found it fascinating to talk to Shawn again after all the years that passed between us. He seemed to recall more examples of my being intimidated while in high school. Sometimes others see something happening when we don’t. I KNOW there were definitely times when I felt belittled, however I always felt more distress for those doing the intimidating. I kept thinking about their lives. What must they be going through?

 

That probably won’t work in today’s socially connected world where a single thought or post can be seen by your entire tribe, your friends, your frenemies and anyone else. I was also fortunate to have friends such as Shawn.

 

Jack Whaley was another such friend I made the first day in the eighth grade. People who took the time to get to know me beyond my outward challenges. I’m grateful for all my friends. But of all my high school friends, having Shawn visit me while I spent so much time in the hospital this winter really touched me. Listening to him relate some stories about his experience with seeing me be intimidated rocked my world because in some cases I don’t recall it happening. But once he’d leave, I would reflect on it and then I’d remember. Oh yeah, I’d think. That DID occur.

 

Bullying has taken on an entirely new dimension and we can no longer just turn to our friends to help and we can’t simply put ourselves in the bully’s shoes. There’s too much of it happening today.  The connected world has made life easier and more challenging at the same time. It’s sad that people still feel the need to intimidate others. I still can’t help but think about the lives they have.  

 

Being empathetic is who I am.  And it’s how I made it through my school age years. Maybe if more people looked at life that way we wouldn’t have so much ugly threatening. Am I being too naive?

 

Be Happy!  Be Well! Be Positive!
Blessings to you.

Chris

Once you realize that life is eternal,
That our souls our eternal,
That we return to light and physical over and over;
We then lose all our distress
We then lose all our fear of dying.  For there truly is no end.

 

3 thoughts on “Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes

  1. Great article Chris! It could be said that we now have leadership is this country that flagrantly bullies to get their way. i agree that more empathy is needed! Stop seeing everyone as the enemy. Last two Super Soul Sundays I watched, David Brooks: The Quest for a Moral Life and Sister Joan Chittister: The Time is Now both talked about how isolated we have become as a society and how we need to start reconnecting with each other. I’d say empathy is a big part of that.

  2. You’re not being naive, Chris, you’re being who you are – a caring person with a big heart! I’ve always assumed, too, that bullies are that way because there is so much negativity going on in their own lives – yes, it’s right to feel sorry for them, and to pray for them. The social media presence does make it so much easier to intimidate others, and that is so very sad to me.
    Blessings to you always!

  3. You post reminds me of this story. Contact Sports

    At age 66, I’m six feet tall and 180 pounds. My weight has varied since I graduated from college at a high of about 220 pounds. That was from drinking too much milk, and beer, in my college fraternity. Having stature and weight was not always the case. Being very small as a child did not help my self esteem. I started first grade much too early at age five and a half. My body was slow in maturing. Graduating from junior high at age thirteen I was still less than five feet tall and less than 100 pounds. Even worse, I was still a boy soprano. And worst of all, it was particularly tough for me in the shower at gym class. I derided myself for being slow in the maturation department. By the time I graduated from high school, I was five foot eight inches. I put another four inches on in my freshman year of college. I had finally arrived.

    During my difficult years, I found support from where it would never be expected. Fortunately, I was a good sport, both physically, and socially. The encouragement came from two quarters. First, it was “Doc” Clark, my gym teacher in seventh and eighth grade. Second, it came from what you would call the class toughs, or sometimes called bullies. By trying hard and showing humility, what else could I do, I gained their respect. Also, sometimes being small has its advantages, like quickly climbing the ropes to the ceiling of the gym. I’m afraid the boys that suffered the most were the lard asses. Being overweight was a curse in my time. Tragically, it still is, isn’t it?

    Gym class in the old days was more like boot camp. That’s where I first learned about new types of contact sports, probably not the ones you normally watch on television or at the hockey rink. I played sandlot tackle football and lost a tooth, but these were different. In today’s world they would be banned. I’ll describe them all. We had “dodge ball”, something we played inside when the weather was too inclement. In fact, all of these games were played inside on purpose, better out of view of the public. Then we had “bull pen”. How about “commando basketball”? The only one still allowed was wrestling, collegiate style. Lastly, if you got into an altercation with anyone, you would be allowed, no forced, into putting on the big heavy boxing gloves and going at it for three minutes. “Doc” Clark said that after three minutes, you won’t be able to hold your arms up. He was right. The same games were played in high school, only the guys were bigger, and badder. As I think back, with all my self doubts and terrible insecurity, this was my crucible. If I was making it here, I could make it in the big world. It has been my constant source of strength.

    Dodge ball was played with a heavy inflated ball about the size of a soccer ball but the skin of a football. One at a time we got to spend our turn inside of a large ring of cheering and blood thirsty players. The whole gist of the game was not get hitting by the ball which was thrown at you repeatedly. It was like dodging bullets. That’s where I developed my lightning reflexes. Oh sure! I still marvel how baseball players get out of the way of a hundred mile per hour bean ball. It was good sport as long as you endured and kept smiling. Crying was definitely out.

    Bull pen was also played in a ring. This time the ring was formed by the players interlocking their arms and legs to form an impenetrable fence. One by one, we took our turn in the center trying to get out of the ring by any means we could. My classic move, given my height, was to fake for the top and then squeeze through a pair of unsuspecting legs. Sometimes that was unsuccessful as the entire wall of the bull pen collapsed on top of me in a tangle of bodies. Commando basketball doesn’t need too much explaining. You didn’t have to dribble, and tackling was allowed.

    Which brings us to wrestling. Up against any lard ass I was the emotional favorite, like David and Goliath. Even with just heavier opponents, I was quick and buoyant, meaning I could, frustratingly, usually stay on top even though I might not get a pin. I was earning my stripes, in somebody’s mind. Coming out of gym class, often one of the toughs, who probably had been giving me a hard time up to this point, would come up behind me. Cringing, I would expect the worse, until he said, rubbing my head, something like “You’re all right kid”. Just writing about these experiences has got me smiling. What I thought about my life sometimes really wasn’t so bad. Those were good times. With some of those toughs, it was just a show. I’ve met many more in life, many in business as well. I remember my friend, Barney, a manager at work. In a meeting he would virtually play dodge ball with some subordinate, who probably deserved it for screwing up big time. When nobody was looking, Barney would turn to me and wink. I wonder if he had any relatives named “Doc”.

    Dick Sederquist
    May, 2004

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