Thursday, February 13, 2014

School and Suffering

Last school year was a dark one for my daughter, Isabelle. "Dark" may seem a melodramatic word for a 5th grade experience, but it fits. It was her first year of middle school and she suffered through a bully, some nasty and petty kids, frustratingly repetitive instruction, and the personal changes that start happening at that age.

It's painful to see your children go through this. You want to rescue them. You want to drive to school and say some inappropriate, your-name-will-probably-appear-in-the-Express-Times-type words to those causing her misery.

At my elementary school in Annapolis, Maryland, intimidation and bullying ran rampant in fourth through sixth grades. I can remember being chased, struck, and belittled. It wasn't until sometime in sixth grade that I realized I had nothing to lose and stood up for myself. (In one memorable incident, I accidentally nailed the most notorious bully in the most sensitive location during dodgeball. He menacingly approached me. Adrenaline coursing through my body, I let him know that I was ready to fight right then and there. Nothing really came of it.)

I also remember the indignity of walking onto the bus, seeking a seat as other kids sat toward the edges of theirs, letting me know I was unwelcome. One kid was questioned as to why he let me sit with him.

I could go on, but I'll get to the point. It's found in the Bible, Romans 5:3-5:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I'm far from being able to "glory" in sufferings. Sad to say, I'm just not that godly. Maybe one day. But the fact is, my difficult experiences in school made me stronger. They also gave me a particular compassion for the underdogs in society that I'm told is noticeable.  I don't wish the adversity that I or Isabelle experienced on anyone, but I recognize that it can build character--character I've seen in Isabelle--especially if someone lovingly guides the person through it.

I desperately hope that I'm doing a good job of that.

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