While scrolling through Facebook today I noticed that October is "Anti-Bullying Month." I was bullied a lot until a friend came to my rescue. Here is the story I wrote about the influence that friend had on my life.
To say I was an unhappy teenager when I was growing up would be an understatement. I have struggled with obesity all my life, so I was the typical bullied fat kid in high school. I tried to play sports; after all, I weighed close to 250 pounds, making me a perfect candidate for a tackle on the football team. The only problem was, I couldn’t tackle anyone. All I could do was get in their way and block their forward progress. I remember my coach in junior high, “Stumpy” Correll, using me as a blocking dummy for his more experienced players. Of all my years warming the bench on the field, I don’t remember getting to play in a game but maybe three times.
The football locker room was a nightmare experience for me. I hated to be seen in the showers by other players because of my obesity. Here is where some of the cruelest “jock” type players would call me names and ridicule my physique. Some would even pinch my chest and mockingly brag about my “man breasts.” As a result, I was always the last one in the shower and the last player out of the locker room which made my coaches think I was just slow and lazy.
I even tried other sports, shot put on the track team, wrestling and even basketball, but each effort ended with the same humiliating trip to the locker room showers after practice.
During my summers I would always spend a week or two at Boy Scout Camp. I loved scouting and I was good at it. I enjoyed the activities and learned almost everything I know about the out of doors through scouting. I even loved to swim, but I never wanted to take my shirt off, so I would always wear a t-shirt when I would go swimming in the lake. I was oblivious to the fact that a wet t-shirt just accentuated what I was trying to hide.
I became close friends with a fellow member of my scout troop. In fact, he was the one who invited me to join Troop 7 at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church where his father was pastor. Perhaps John felt sorry for me, I don’t know, but he became a close friend and our friendship lasted all through our high school years.
John was an avid tennis player, and one day he invited me to play with him. At first, I thought it was just another cruel joke, watching a fat boy trying to hit a tennis ball and chasing it all over the court. But John was different. He loaned me one of his racquets and we went to the tennis courts near his house and he patiently taught me how to hold the racquet, how to serve the ball into the opponent’s court, how to hit a forehand and backhand shot, and then he actually played games with me.
Slowly, as we continued to get together to play tennis over the months and years that followed, I learned to love the game of tennis and began to get pretty good at the game. I would even occasionally beat John in a game or two. I began to re-develop my self-confidence, and best of all, there never was a locker room scene after our games. We would each just go home and bathe privately.
One thing has always puzzled me about the game of tennis…the scoring. I mean why would the first point scored be worth fifteen points, and second point thirty? And why would the person losing, with no points be designated with the word “Love?” I think John Price taught me why when he took the time to teach a fat kid how to play tennis. Tennis is a game of love! I guess that’s why John followed in his father’s footsteps into the ministry. He has probably spent the rest of his life showing love to others.