“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” This quote is attributed to Jimi Hendrix as well as having ties to William Gladstone and Sri Chinmoy Ghose.
The story I’m sharing has a slight narrative twist – the beginning being both the voice of my mom, along with what I’ve been told (as I was 6 years old when the following events transpired) followed in the middle and end by my voice.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Heaney?”
“Yes, who’s calling please?”
“This is Nurse Patrick from Maple Grove Elementary School. Are you the legal guardian of a Miss Sharon Anne Heaney?”
“Yes, yes I am. Oh my, is something wrong with my little ShaSha?”
“Now Mrs. Heaney, please remain calm. While performing the routine annual eye exam on the first grade class this morning it appears as though Sharon is losing sight in her right eye.”
“Oh no! My poor ShaSha. What do you mean it appears she’s losing sight in her right eye?”
“Well, if you could come pick her up today, as soon as possible and get her into an eye specialist that would be most optimal. We’ve called Dr. Dobbs, a renowned optometrist here in Kerrisdale and he could see your daughter at 2 pm today. Is that convenient for you? We’d strongly recommend it.”
“Oh my goodness, yes, I’m on my way.”
I loved my sparkly, glittery, faux diamonds on the top edges of my light blue cat eye glasses. I felt like a princess. I could see: the colors of the sky, the shape shifting of the clouds, the details of the blossoms on the cherry tree in my backyard and the twitching whiskers on my gerbil, Scooter. I felt so proud wearing my new glasses to school: my new, ‘ look at me, I’m awesome glasses.’
“Hey there, 4 eyes,” yelled Joel Harriman as he ran past me, hitting me on the shoulder, while simultaneously pointing at me and yelling at the top of his 6 year old voice, “4 eyes, 4 eyes, Heaney’s now got 4 eyes!!!!
I was stunned into silence. Puddles of tears formed on the corners of my eyelids. In one brief moment of verbal abuse my precious sense of self and wondrous outlook on life was crushed. Would anyone come to my rescue?
Let’s fast forward to my now present, fabulous 50 year old self. That was my first experience of being bullied. I told my mom, who was somewhat helpful, but the bullying continued from that neighborhood boy until his family moved away 3 years later. I wore those glasses proudly though for years and attempted to ignore the taunting shouts and yells from across the street as I walked to school. Then I went into my ‘brown, dull,boring glasses phase.’ I look back now and know I was simply trying to hide. Fortunately enough, a few years later a strong sense of self, and the physical leaving of Joel the bully, encouraged me to dance back into my love of my glasses. I’ve worn red rimmed frames, purple speckled ones, blue/green streaked ones, and now wear my lovely multi colored, bifocal, transitional glasses.
I was prompted today to write about this particular story from my childhood because bullying, in all its subtle, unique and hurtful forms continues to happen. It’s one of my rather large pet peeves. When anyone, of any gender, color, race, ethnicity, spirituality is bullied/slandered/ told they are less than – it pisses me off! I was bullied recently by a Buddhist Nun. At first I was unable to name it. It came about in a beginners mindfulness meditation class that my daughter and I attended. At one point, near the beginning of our practice, we were both singled out, called by name and asked where and how we had been instructed previously and what our practice was. No one else in the room of 30 people were asked. I had not met the instructor prior to this, nor been introduced to her, or asked this question prior to class. It had been advertised as a mindfulness meditation class for all levels, especially beginners. I felt belittled, small, and verbally pummeled. Both myself and my daughter were there to learn. This particular instructor was harsh in her tone of voice and when the class ended she didn’t say anything to us or acknowledge in any way our earnest attempt to learn. Let’s just say I won’t be going back to participate in any of her classes and am joyfully pursuing mindfulness meditation through other teachers and resources.
Bullying happens when people abuse their power (or the power they think they have) instead of choosing to follow the actions of love. It happens in India, where the caste system, while supposing to be illegal, continues to unfurl its oppressive hold. It happens with leaders in various religious traditions and faiths throughout the world. It happens here in Seattle via Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church (which you can google to read about the recent shenanigans going on there if you so desire). It happens in Ferguson,Mo. My heart is grieved and aches for the family of Michael Brown. Much is being written and asked about this current tragedy and my short sentences here in reference to the events are in no way minimizing the murder of this young man nor equating it all to bullying. It happens in other parts of our world where humans elect to see others as somehow less than. It happened to my daughter in High School. It has happened throughout history. I ponder and ask myself: How do I practice the power of love in my daily life? How do I use my voice, express myself, when I see and hear bullying, slander, talk of ‘so and so being less than’? In what ways can I be a person of love in my community, neighborhood, family, friends and city?