Tag Archives: education

She could have totally kicked my ass….

I am not really sure why I feel absolutely compelled to write this post – right now. 

But I do.

So I will.

Maybe today one of my readers needs to hear this story – I am not sure – but I am going trust my gut and share.

This isn’t particularly easy for me – but I am going for it.

If you know me, you might not imagine that I was bullied in high school. I am pretty confident (okay, most of the time) and I am not afraid to stand my ground (pretty much ever). I’m not gorgeous or particularly hideous. In those days, I fit pretty much right smack dab into the middle of just about everything. Not too tall. Not too short. Not too fat. Certainly not too skinny. Not too geeky. Certainly not too cool.

In high school, I had plenty of friends and I had dates to just about every function – most of the time I had a boyfriend. I made good grades but wasn’t a total nerd. I owned at least one pair of Tiger shoes and a pair of Guess jeans. Had me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilts too. And at least 3 shirts donning that Lacoste gator. So I wasn’t necessarily setting trends but I wasn’t a fashion abomination. Continuously falling right smack in the middle.

Because I was President of the Student Government and an officer in several other clubs, I also had fantastic relationships with quite a few teachers – okay, maybe I was more nerdy than I realized. But, the point is – I didn’t ever have to walk down the hall alone – I wasn’t invisible to teachers. I knew lots of people and got along with most of them.

Except one girl.

I won’t share her real name – but she did not like me – not one little bit. (I guess I will call her Tasha – because that’s not really her name.)

Tasha hated me.

H.a.t.e.d. M.e.

I mean really hated me. Really, really.

Honestly, I didn’t really care so much if she hated me. Her impression of me wasn’t that important to me.

Remember – I was a pretty confident kid – I completely understood that her opinion of me did not define me. Just because she called me a bitch (or worse) every. single. time. she saw me walk down the hallway did not mean I was a bitch or worse. That was clear to me.

However, she could have totally kicked my ass. I was pretty afraid that one day she would realize her words didn’t work to hurt me and that she would turn to sticks and stones to try and break my bones.

It was painfully obvious to me that the only way to survive a fight with Tasha was to never get in a fight with Tasha.

She was in my face. A lot.

And I was scared of her. A lot.

But I would just walk down a different hallway. I didn’t come back at her with words and certainly never with actions.

My worst experience with her was one night at a party at the lake.

She found out I was there and came looking for me. Running up the hill with her friends, screaming, “Where is sheeee?”

Thank God I was in the bathroom with the door locked. (Teach your children to lock the bathroom door at a party.)

She pounded on the thin wooden door for what seemed like 15 minutes, daring me to come out.

Then begging me to come out.

There I stayed – behind that locked door – probably shaking – trying to guess what my best option was. Thinking what was the worst that could happen if I came out.

That was easy. She could have totally kicked my ass.

Totally.

So I figured my best plan was to leave. Quickly.

Apparently, Tasha didn’t like that little life-preserving decision of mine. Maybe she was tired of me turning away from her. I don’t really know.

But, she positioned herself in front of me – and in front of everyone else, she threw her drink on me. Right down the front of my shirt. The funny thing was I had borrowed that cute white sweater from a friend of mine. Who was also a friend of hers.

Of course, it was a red punch drink of one sort or another.

My theory remained in tact – the surest way to not get beaten up was to not get in a fight.

I headed to my car, ever grateful that I still had my keys with me.

Tasha headed to her car. If I remember right, it was a jeep. I could be wrong on that. But I think it was.

Two girls in my class drove jeeps – the homecoming queen and Tasha. Funny little Southern irony there.

Anyjeep.

I drove on the dark hilly road along that lake scared out of my mind. Not knowing where I was going. No cell phone. No GPS. Just sheer adrenaline and prayer. Lots of prayers.

Tasha followed me very closely. And it was my distinct impression that several times she tried to run me off the road.

Yes, you’re right. She was mean as hell.

Somehow, I made it out of the woods in one piece, without wrecking my car and without getting in a fight.

That night I went to bed in that red-stained sweater, still shaking. I never told one adult what happened. In fact, I never really talked about it with my friends – even those who were there.

Tasha’s need to spew her hate at me seemed to quiet down after that night. Maybe she scared herself too. Who knows but I enjoyed a little respite.

She didn’t say much more to me until we were rehearsing for graduation. I was asked to give the prayer for the graduating class.

Tasha was my motivation.

My prayer appeared focused on the global picture of war and hate but it was meant for her.

Stop hating. Stop scaring. Now, I was begging her.

She pretended to shoot me as I walked down the stairs from the stage.

Finally, I said something.

“Oh, I think you got me this time.”

I must have looked ridiculous clutching my chest and pretending to be shot. But I finally felt it. Enough already.

Several months later, a dear friend of mine invited me to join her in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. She went to Auburn and they were playing Alabama (my favorite team).

My only reservation in going was that I knew Tasha had moved to New Orleans. Yes, I was still worried enough about her that I almost didn’t go.

The friend who had invited me reassured me – it’s a huge town, thousands of people are going to be there to see the game, you’ll never see her. What are the chances?

You can probably guess what the chances were – 100%.

We were walking down the street and, towards us, came Tasha.

My heart tightened and I had to catch my breath.

She walked right up to me and gave me the biggest, hardest hug.

WTF?

“I thought you hated me,” was all I could muster.

“Oh, that was high school,” she said and laughed.

Now we are facebook friends and we have joked about how much she hated me. Now she’ll know just how much she scared me, too. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh about that.

To be fair to Tasha, she has since shared with me that she thought I was mean to her friend – I thought Tasha hated me because of a boy who called me when he was “going with” her. Tasha said that she was defending her friend and was furious when her friend stopped being mad at me. I guess Tasha just couldn’t let go. To be fair to me, I don’t ever remember not liking this other friend or being mean to her. If I was, I am sorry for that.

As I said, I am not sure why I am supposed to share this story but I feel that I am.

Maybe there are some important things here. I will share what I think they might be…

  • Being nice is always the best option.
  • If someone comes to you with a bulling story, please do not tell them that they simply need to toughen up. Help them. It is really hard to share these things – if they thought they could handle it on their own, they would have.
  • There are books that can help you talk to kids about bullying. If you aren’t sure where to start, look here at Dinner A Love Story.
  • If your child is a bully – it’s not cool – he’s not tough, stop him now. Or her. (Boys aren’t the only bullies.)
  • If you are modeling bullying behavior for your child, stop it now. You are not cool and you are not tough. But I think you know that.
  • If you are bullying your own children, you might be creating bullies. Get help so you can stop the cycle. And get them help too.
  • Scaring someone is not entertainment. Buy a movie ticket.
  • It’s not always obvious who will be bullied. Even those who appear strong can be victims because weakness is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder can be a vulture waiting to strike when no one is looking.
  • Those who are bullied will not always tell that they are being bullied.
  • Even if they have multiple safety nets.
  • If you are being bullied, tell someone. Someone you trust, especially if you are scared.
  • Red drink stains will come out of a white sweater with 409 and it’s good to lock the bathroom door at a party.

What he said………..

It turns out I am in good company in the blogosphere. The U.S. Ambassador to India has a blog too – it’s called Roaming Roemer – yep his name is Timothy Roemer and he is certainly roaming all over India – to places that most of us would never know about or be able to find. He is rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty – and sometimes getting them clean. Tim Roemer is advocating for better education, cleaner water, better opportunities for women and children, and so much more. Check out his blog and you can see the real work that is happening in India and how America is being allowed to participate in it. It’s interesting stuff for sure!

Spreading Cheer……

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Kiran Bedi – put your seat belt on. I had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak last week and I wanted to share her story with you.

First all all, she is not even 5 feet tall, but she stands like a giant in a room. She has a presence – you can truly feel her enter the room. She was running a little bit late (not surprising – when you are changing the world, you can’t always be on time) and seriously, the whole dynamic of the room changed the second she entered it. It did not become hushed – but energized. We moved to the side a little and she walked to the podium soaking us all in. As if she was there to learn from us – it was so interesting. She laughed that women are women – always talking, always laughing. She seems to take in every moment – acknowledge every smile.

She began her talk by saying that her job has always been to spread cheer. In every aspect of her life, she aims to spread cheer. Not to necessarily move mountains or shatter barriers, simply to spread cheer. Although the result of her spreading cheer has certainly been mountains moving and barriers shattering and much, much cheer spreading.

Kiran Bedi began her career in 1972 when she joined the Indian Police Service. She was the first woman to do so. She made so many waves and captured enough positive media attention that it was decided that she should take 9 months paid leave. Dr. Bedi said it was during that time that she began to write down her stories. She has published several books including “I Dare”, “It’s Always Possible”, and “What Went Wrong”.

Then someone wised up and decided that Dr. Bedi should not be paid for not working and put her in charge of the Tihar prison. I guess they thought that they would show her. Ha. She was given the position of Inspector General of Prisons for Tihar jail. It housed over 10,000 inmates.  If I remember correctly, Tihar houses every type of criminal and even houses a maximum security area. It is one of the world’s largest prison complexes. You can check out its website here – it is unlike any prison I have heard of before. First of all they have a factory where inmates work and learn a trade – like pottery, weaving, paper making, baking, etc. Now, there’s an idea.

During Kiran Bedi’s time at the prison (which I believe was only two years), she made radical and effective changes. The repeat offender rate of the Tihar jail inmates is significantly lower than most prisons across the world. She walked the prison floors everyday and interacted with the prisoners – no one had ever done that before. Previous Inspector Generals seemed to have stayed very far away from the actual task at hand. They found their air conditioned offices much more comfortable than being inside the prison walls. Everything was disconnected.

Immediately upon arriving, she saw drastic change was necessary to give the prisoners a sense of hope and humanness.

One of the first things she did was instituted a daily meditation ritual. She would pray with the prisoners every day. Dr. Bedi feels that this is what western prisons are lacking. It is easy to get too caught up in spirituality being religion and then conflict ensues. She said that meditation (spirituality) allows a person time to reflect – time to learn that the path they are on might not be working so well. She said we all need time to think about our choices. Daily meditation allows that – daily prayer offers hope. Both are essential for reform and rehabilitation.

This is one of my favorite parts of her story. She saw in the rules that “transistors, watches, and books were not permitted, unless permitted.” So  she simply permitted them. She did not need a high court decision or a council meeting or a vote – she simply wrote down on a piece of lovely green paper that transistors, books, and watches are now permitted and she thumb-tacked it up on a bulletin board. Brilliant.

She gave prisoners back the privilege of having watches and transistor radios because she did not want them disconnected from the outside world. She felt that if the inmates were unaware of what was happening outside of their walls, it would further alienate them when they returned to society.

Dr. Bedi also gave the prisoners books. She said she would visit local schools at the end of the year and take away their discarded text books. Talk about trash to treasure! She had many volunteers who would come in and teach classes. Companies would donate school supplies. Many of the inmates pursued degrees of various levels.

She realized the medical costs of running a prison were eating into her budget. So she declared the prison a smoke-free environment. She felt the poisons from cigarettes were damaging not just the physical health of the prisoners, but their mental health as well. She was concerned about the effect of second-hand smoke, so she simply said “no more”. And she saw a dramatic decrease in her medical expenses. Tuberculosis cases significantly decreased.

She was not without sympathy for the withdrawal symptoms the prisoners would face and instituted detox facilities. She also listened intently to the prisoners concerns that smoking was “all they had”. She asked them for alternative solutions but together they could not come up with a viable answer. So, Tihar remains a non-smoking environment.

In India, women can take their children to prison with them. My understanding is that there is not a social welfare system in India and there is great concern when children are separated from their mothers – no good can come from that. So the children often go with. Dr. Bedi started a preschool program for the children. Some of the women in the prison were interested in learning to be childcare providers – so they learned by watching the children in the prison. The mothers of those children could either take school classes or weaving classes.

When the children turn about 6 years old, their mothers can choose to send them to a boarding school where they get a proper education. Even if the mother is released from prison, the children can stay enrolled in school.

I asked Dr. Bedi if some women commit crimes just to have their children get these advantages. She simply said “sure”.

Dr. Bedi also instituted a petition box where the prisoners could share their concerns and complaints. She gave them a voice.

The thing that amazed me most about Dr. Bedi was the joy she described in every single thing. She truly seems to have no complaints whatsoever. She took being put on leave as an opportunity to write. She described the note that she posted on a bulletin board about watches and transitors being allowed and smiled so genuinely about the lovely soft shade of green the paper was. She laughed about the cobwebs and the rats that infested her not-so-new office at the prison. She joked that she challenged the rats to see who would be there longer.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Bedi and four other ladies after her talk. Dr. Bedi has advised government leaders and been invited to speak to the United Nations. She has her own television show that is similar to Judge Judy – but with more of a slant on teaching the law and explaining its nuances to Indian citizens. She is famous here. More than famous. It was a treat to have such a small audience with her.

One of the women asked her what Dr. Bedi thought was the reason for her tremendous success. I know the answer. She is letting her life take her where she is meant to be and she is finding joy along every step of the way. There are no obstacles, only opportunities. She strives to improve her life. She has recently given up eating meat because she was trying to find what else she could do to become a better person.

One of the other things she said that I found so interesting was that institutions will survive us all. So, we must work to make institutions that mean something, that have  a positive influence on the world – long after we are gone. When she left lunch with us, she was off to attend a meeting with people who are working to start a taxi business for women drivers.

She is changing the world and she is spreading cheer.

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