Friday, May 25, 2012

Katie's Gift

Bullying is out of control these days, but I think we sometimes take the wrong approach to dealing with it. When my daughter, Katie, was in elementary school, she was picked on relentlessly by a classmate named Patricia. Patricia wasn't your typical "mean girl." She was disheveled and unpopular and just angry in general. Soft-spoken Katie was an easy target. She would call Katie names and step on her feet as she pushed to step in front of her in line at the cafeteria. When I became aware of the bullying, I contacted the school and the counselor explained to me that Patricia's parents had been killed in a car accident the year before, and that she was having a hard time coping. I also learned from some other mothers that she was living with some relatives in a pretty rough environment - both emotionally and financially. The police were constantly being called to their home which was plagued with domestic violence. Child Protective Services had threatened to put Patricia in a foster home. I sat down with Katie and talked to her about Patricia losing her parents and how sad she must be. I told her that she probably just didn't know how to deal with her loss. Katie's golden brown eyes grew wide and filled with tears. She was instantly filled with compassion and spoke in a whisper: "Poor Patricia." I told her that the best thing she could do was to find some way to be Patricia's friend. She said, "I know! I could give her a present!" I told her that her idea might just work, but that she should understand upfront that there was a chance that the gift might be rejected. I suggested that the gift could be something homemade, or just something that she already had that she thought Patricia might like. She looked around her room and picked up a white porcelain swan that she kept trinkets in. She emptied the contents and dusted it off. As she carefully wrapped it and wrote "TO PATRICIA - FROM KATIE" on the outside of the box with a gold glitter marker, she told me how much she loved the swan and how she just knew Patricia would love it, too. The next day before it was time to line up for lunch, and with great anticipation, Katie invited Patricia to sit by her at lunch time. She told her that she had a present she wanted to give her. Patricia didn't believe her at first, but Katie insisted that she would LOVE it. They sat side-by-side as Patricia unwrapped the swan and then looked up at Katie with a smile. As their eyes met, Katie asked, "Would you like to be my friend?" - such a simple and direct question, yet so powerful. Patricia responded, "Why would you want to be MY friend?" Katie answered, "because I don't want you to be sad any more." From that day on, Patricia's attitude changed for the better. Finally, someone not only "got" her, but offered her a gift - the gift of understanding and friendship.

Sue Price Co-Founder of SOS FOR TEACHERS.
Reach For The STAAR's Blog.
SOS For Teacher's Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. this story is beautiful. It's so true that when you look deeper to see the person behind the actions, sometimes you find gold. And when kids bully, there is often a reason behind it. Katie's approach was so direct and so thoughtful. And it's something I'll keep in mind for my boys as they grow. Always look beyond a person's actions, reach out, and see what happens. Yes, bullying is wrong and needs to stop, but if we include the bully in the solution, sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. And sometimes we make a difference for more them, too. Such a feel good story. thanks!


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