The End of Bullying.
I've thought about writing this story for a very long time. Twenty nine years, in fact. I think it's time. This is the story of my bully.
I've been watching the coverage of Phoebe Prince, the young Irish girl who committed suicide possibly as a result of being bullied by students at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Having a young daughter myself, I can only imagine the pain her parents are suffering after losing their daughter so tragically.
The story of my bully had an entirely different ending though. He was the one that died.
For the first ten years of my school life in Blackfalds, Alberta... my nickname was "Chink" thanks to Troy Starchuk. He was my bully.
It started in the first grade where I was a young boy of noticeable ethnic difference. I'm half Japanese. Blackfalds was a small town and people who were different stood out. It was 1971 and there was no such thing as anti-bullying programs or ethnic diversity. I was a target from day one just because of my "differents" and Troy took every chance he could to take swipes at me verbally and physically.
I was a small kid. I was skinny. It felt like Troy wanted to dominate me. It felt like he wanted to tower over me and keep me under his control. The name calling and punches, the pinning to the ground and hits in the hallway were always present. In the fifth grade I resorted to spending my money on candy on my way to school so I could give it to him and hopefully get a break. It worked for a while until I ran out of money.
"Hey Chink!", he would call out at me, always careful to make sure there were no teachers around. He was smart... almost diabolical. He would make sure that every comment, threat and punch would further heighten his power over me. Then he discovered the power of using other kids as a way of making my life even more miserable. And they bought in... because they didn't want to get what I was getting.
In seventh grade, I decided that I had enough. I arranged a fight with a group of my friends against him and his friends. He came straight for me. I was the weakest of the group and pummeled me with punches to my head. It didn't hurt for some reason... and to this day I don't know why. The bullying continued.
In grade nine, I was riding my bike uptown early one evening and I came across Troy and a group of my friends hanging out on the steps of the bank. Troy decided to throw his "Chink" name calling into high gear... and my friends chose to join him. At that moment, I decided that I would no longer associate with any of them. Not one.... single... one... of... them. I was devastated.
High school came and we all moved to a new school. Tenth grade offered a lot more freedom and space to avoid both Troy and the others who had called out "Chink" that night. I had a whole group of new friends and life felt like it was starting to work out the way I had always dreamed but there was always that constant threat of my bully showing up.
And then it happened.
It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday and my mom had sent me up to the store to pick something up. I was at the counter paying and the clerk said to me, "Did you hear about Troy Starchuk?"
"No", I replied.
"He died in a car accident last night", she told me.
I got on my bike in shock. Starchuk was dead. A truckload of bricks had fallen on me. I was crushed. I was deeply moved... but was it sadness? I don't know. Was it relief? I don't know that either.
When I got home, I told my mom and brother that Troy Starchuk was killed in a car accident. They were shocked too.
I spent the weekend in a daze.
Up to that moment, my life meant nothing but "limitations". Beyond that moment, my life was about "possibilities". I was no longer "Chink". I was Tim Tamashiro.
Bullying is nothing more than being "kindness blind" and face it, the blind need help getting to where they need to be. Phoebe Prince didn't have to die. All she needed was some kindness from the people who decided that she should be a target instead of "one of the girls".
Bullying stops when those around both the victim and the ones doing the bullying insist that kindness prevail. It's not enough to just sit back and watch it happen. If you are a victim, tell someone. If you are a witness to bullying, stand up for what's right. If you're being a bully, smarten up. Don't be that way. Be kind.
Celebrate your "differents" and the "differents" of others. Don't let bullying play a role in ANY part of your life, not as a bully, not as a witness or as a victim. Choose higher.
The end of bullying came for me when my bully died.
The end of bullying came for Phoebe Prince when she died.
The end of bullying for the rest of the world should start now!