Story 6 :: Hands Out of My Pockets

I was in seventh grade. I was getting a reputation for being a Christian, which also somehow silently meant students could pick on me without recourse. I would randomly get punched in the hallway and boys (trying to get a name for themselves) would challenge me to fight because I would not fight back. It got to the point that teachers were starting to notice and were trying to keep a watchful eye for me.

This was an awkward year for me. I was struggling academically. I realized my vision was very bad (as I could not see the board), so I had to get glasses. I was now an out spoken “four-eyed” Christian. I was perceived as weak even though I was not. Inwardly, I was fighter but was doing my best to behave as I believed Christ would have me.

When I was in elementary, I was put into a specials class because of my behavior. This class was put into my schedule when I came to middle school. In 7th grade, the school and my parents agreed I should be removed from the class. The class that I had specials with was Language Arts. However, when I came back to the main classroom, I was very behind and struggling. For the next several months, I came in early every morning to meet with my homeroom teacher. She personally taught me to diagram sentences.

It was during this time that she grew to know me and the hardships I was experiencing. One day a student (much bigger than I), challenged me to fight after school the next day. He said there was no walking away from this one. I would fight or get badly beaten up. The kids started talking about it and word spread fast.

I went home that day and told my Mom about what happened. I told her that this boy was going to fight me and beat me up if I did not fight back. I said, “I don’t think I can keep my hands in my pockets anymore.”

My mom agreed. She said, “I understand. But, know that if you do fight, you must be willing to accept the consequences. Your Dad and I will back the school in those situations.”

I know some may think why didn’t my mom just go tell the principal and get the other boy in trouble. Well, that just wasn’t how things happened back then. My parents believed that we should fight our own battles – and learn from them. In addition, you have to realize what situation that would put me in with those at school. I would now be a four-eyed Christian who is not only weak but has to have his Momma fight his battles. I would never recover from that reputation the next six years.

The next day, all the kids were talking about it. Everyone knew I was going to get it.

There just comes that day in middle school that defines what kind of person you are going to be. I knew I could fight, but I didn’t want to bring shame to the name of Christ. I began to think if I didn’t fight I would be branded as weak and be the epitome of the stereotype. I was struggling.

I sat quietly (all packed up), waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. All of the kids were anxious and nearly standing at their desks ready for the encounter. The thing is when you fight at school, you have about 30 seconds before a teacher will break it up so you have to get your punches in.

The bell rang and everyone dashed for the door. I didn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. I got up slowly and exited the door. He came out the opposite side door and we meet in the middle. The entire adjoining classes were all huddled around us eager for the show to get on. He gave me a few choice cuss words, but I turned to walk away. Suddenly, everything changed. I dropped my bag and charged him. I landed two or three swings and had him backing up all the way to the other side of the crowd. My home room teacher came out and broke it a part. She brought me back to the classroom. She let me cry, regain my composure and cool down. The crowd dissipated. I knew I was going to be in trouble. She smiled and said, “Well, then. I think it’s time for you to go catch your bus.”

I was shocked. I walked out the side door and picked up my bag that I dropped previously. I then realized that my homeroom teacher witnessed the whole thing. She watched to see what I would do. She always had my back. She knew the boy fighting me was not going to back down. If it was not that day it would be another. She just didn’t know how I was going react. I think my reaction not only took the boy by surprise but also my teacher. A new respect was given to the four-eyed Christian boy.

I was never again challenged to fight that year by anyone and everyone had a newfound respect for me. I was not weak or afraid. I could defend myself and my faith. The boy who wanted to fight me, well, we actually became somewhat friends and had a cordial relationship even through high school. He never again challenged me and would always listen when I was sharing my faith.