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Ships and Bullying

Last Wednesday, Maria went on her very first fifth grade field trip, and Andrew chaperoned.  They woke up while it was still dark outside the chilly windows at 4:30am, and arrived at school with the rest of their class before heading up to the Ocean Institute, Maria was so excited as she clutched daddy’s hand.

They boarded the 65 foot boat and cast out to sea while the excited kids saw blue whales, the largest living mammals to ever exist and sea lions. 

They tested water levels at the mouth of the sanitation site, dissected fish, gave presentations.

We live in an area that is relatively low socioeconomically, which we kind of love.

While on the boat, one of the girls in Maria’s group asked her, “Is your dad nice?”

Maria looked at her puzzled, before replying, “YES!” because, all dads are nice, right?

And the very next day, two girls, including the one who asked Maria about her dad, the one who saw Maria’s dad, the lone male chaperone, help her and hold her hand, who aided her to dissect the fish, and give high fives to all the kids, told another little girl to pick on Maria and make fun of her, while they sat in back and laughed at her.

And while she was bullied, she didn’t fight back, but sat and felt sad.

Maria didn’t tell us that same day, but the next.

Out first response was anger on the inside, as we asked her questions about it, as we asked Maria to talk out her feelings with us, and we took a deep breath.

“It made me feel almost really sad!” she told us, smiling really big now, you could tell a huge weight lifted off of her shoulders.  This type of situation is not foreign to Maria, she has told us of many times when she and her friends were bullied in the orphanage, of kids grabbing and breaking her friends glasses, leaving her sobbing, of hitting and hurting, of teasing and slamming fingers in doors, leaving her with half a nail, but this time, she has parents to hear her, to care, and to make it right.

She told us of a little girl who stood up for her, “That’s not funny,” the girl told the bullies, “leave Maria alone.”

“Do you want me to talk to them on Monday when I pick you up?” I asked Maria.

“Um…no, well, actually yes!”

I know these girls, and they love when I pick Maria up with the boys, and they love that I talk to them and know their names and ask them about their days in school, the ones who are still waiting to be picked up from after school programs until almost dark.

“Actually, mama, they asked me if I had told you, but I told them I would today.”

“Ok, and I’ll talk to your teacher too.”

We talked about hurt and love, and how love is stronger.  We talked about Jesus, his words and life that teach to do things counter to our emotions and what we would otherwise want to do in a situation.

“The last thing I would think of on my own is to love my enemies,” we told her, “but it’s what God wants.”  We told her that hurt people hurt people, and that they might have big hurts in their hearts.  We told her about how God wants us to pray for those who hurt us, because it’s good for them, but it’s good for our hearts, too.  She nodded smiling.  We bowed our heads, and she asked God to be with each of the girls who picked her out to bully, “Cause maybe they don’t have nice mommies and daddies, too, like I do…” she added.

She smiled as she hopped off to pick out a special one of her favorite tiny toys to give to the girl who stood up for her, “This one,” she said, beaming.

We decided we would write a nice note and give a gift to the sweet girl who stood up for her to say thank you, and I will talk to the girls on Monday, in a loving–and accountable way.  I know in my heart that all kids needs love and mentorship, even if they are not your own.

You’re familiar with the old written law,  ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 
I’m challenging that. 
I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. 
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. 
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Matt 5:43-48
Don’t worry though, Maria had a wonderful weekend.  She learned to twirl spaghetti on a fork, learned two new piano songs, Grandma and Grandpa were in town, and we put her new armoire in her room.  (It was free, someone getting rid of it!)
Grandma helped her clean out all her clothes, and we got 2 big bags ready for cousin Katya.
Nicest piece of furniture we own now!

 She is resilient, but more than that, she has the wisdom to live her life listening to God, and to pray for those who hurt her.
The sun to warm, the rain to nourish.  The good, the bad, the nice the nasty.  But this time, with a family to love her through. 
And now it’s our turn to love some other hurting girls.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • amy jupin September 23, 2013, 3:30 pm

    i reread this twice.
    what a special post.
    thank you for the gentle reminders again today.

  • Kate September 23, 2013, 4:38 pm

    best. response. ever.

  • Dan September 23, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Love Maria’s heart! Love the parents’ accountability to set an AWESOME example.

    Thanks for the tears in my eyes now. 🙂

  • babyarnie September 23, 2013, 9:49 pm


  • Jennie September 23, 2013, 11:18 pm

    What a sweet way to extend grace. So thankful that Maria has her beloved family. The wee boys are growing up too fast.

  • Melissa September 24, 2013, 12:30 am

    Though she may know bullying because of her background, she is learning a powerful lesson here. I can’t say I would have been as clear headed in my response to the bullies. Perhaps jealous of the daddy in her life? No doubt wounded as well.

  • The Idaho Neumanns September 24, 2013, 4:16 am

    beautifully written, way to make the world a better place, one girl at a time.

  • Lenetta September 24, 2013, 4:07 pm

    Amy, I would love to hear how it went when you talked to the girls. This parenting thing seems so tough to navigate sometimes and I appreciate so much examples like yours and so many others. <3