The 1950s were a simpler time.
Kids were encouraged to go outside and play. We rode our bikes up and down the street. We could play in both the backyard and the front yard. We threw a football and played baseball right in the middle of the street. When a car came, someone would yell, “Car-Ball.” Then we all got out of the way until it passed. The driver would almost always smile and wave. We all smiled and waved back.
We didn’t watch much television during the day. At our house, we could only receive two Dayton channels. It would be a full generation before there were video games that reached out and sucked children into their TV screen for hours. We spent most of our time outside.
It was a good, wholesome time to be a child.
Every afternoon our mailman would deliver mail to our house on South Maple Street. He was nice to everyone. His smile was always ready and available to anyone he met. If asked to describe him, people who knew him would probably have said, “He’s a nice man. Very pleasant.”
Whenever I saw him coming down the street, I would go to the front yard and wait. Every day he would look at me like he had never seen me before. He would always hand me our few pieces of mail. Then he would ask, “And, what is your name, young fellow?”
Each time, I would smile and say, “Wandy Whywey.” He would laugh out loud and continue his route. I always thought that he was a nice, pleasant man. He just had a lousy memory for names.
It was much later in life that I realized he was making fun of me.
Having a speech impediment, as a child, is not uncommon. Most children outgrow their problem without too much effort. Not being able to pronounce your “R’s” or “L’s” is a fairly common speech problem for children. It usually doesn’t cause too much embarrassment … unless your name happens to be Randy Riley.
I still think our mailman was a nice, pleasant man. I never thought that I was being bullied.
Of course, I remember some schoolmates who could easily be describe as being a bully, but our mailman? Not so much. He may have been insensitive; his laughter inappropriate, but I don’t remember being scarred by the experience.
By the second grade, I was in speech therapy. Mission accomplished. My Mom says I haven’t stopped talking since I completed therapy. Now, I too can laugh about it. But, I would never make fun of a someone with a lisp, or a stutter or some cute little preschool kid hung up on his “R’s” or “L’s.”
Bullying seems to have changed since I was a kid. Certainly, it is now being recognized as a significant problem. Last week, the Wilmington News Journal dedicated an entire back page to the issue of bullying.
We all need to be aware of the signs that our children are being bullied and, very importantly, we need to be aware of the signs that our own children may be turning into bullies. In both cases, the behavior needs to be taken seriously and corrective action needs to be taken.
In the WNJ last week it was noted that, “The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Furthermore, more than 70 percent of students report incidents of bullying at their schools.”
It was also reported that, “While many youngsters are teased or receive some good-natured ribbing at some point in their school careers, some teasing can eventually turn into bullying.”
That is what I experienced — some good-natured ribbing by our jovial mailman. I don’t remember ever being bullied or bullying anyone else in school.
I’ve always tried not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
However, I do remember some fellow students being made-fun-of or being picked on. Now, I realize just how damaging that could be for them.
Today, bullying behavior usually takes the form of either verbal abuse, cyber bullying or physical abuse. There is never any excuse for any behavior that hurts someone else.
In Sunday School, when we were children, we were taught the simple lesson; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Unfortunately, not as many children now go to Sunday School, but we still need to pass that simple lesson on to our children, our grandchildren and anyone else who may need the reminder.
Hurting others, either physically or emotionally, is never acceptable. Calling people names. Hurting others. Acting like a bully, talking like a bully or being a bully will always be wrong.
“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”
It is still the Golden Rule.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.