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Jewish World Review March 22, 2001 / 27 Adar, 5761

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports


What they did to her at her own front door


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THIS happened the other weekend, in South Bend, Ind.

You would think -- with all the current talk about how important it is for children to treat other children with thoughtfulness and decency -- that something this cruel would be close to impossible.

A 6th-grade girl at a local elementary school had a birthday party on a Friday night. It was a boy-girl party. Many, but not all, of the birthday girl's 6th-grade classmates were invited.

One girl who wasn't invited -- she is relatively new to the school, and is still trying to make friends -- lived just down the block.

She knew about the party, and that she had not been asked. She spent the evening with her family.

During the evening, the front doorbell rang.

Let the girl's grandmother describe it:

"The entire group [from the party] walked the few houses down to my granddaughter's house and rang the doorbell, and when she opened the door they all stood in the yard pointing and laughing at her.

"In the group was a girl she considered her best friend."

They laughed at the girl they had not invited, then ran into the night. The girl turned to her mother, who hugged her; the girl began to cry.

Later the children from the party returned, rang the bell, and ran again.

The grandmother said of the girl: "She has a kind and gentle spirit, and she is a warm and loving person. She enjoys taking care of her great-grandmother [who is very ill in the hospital], and enjoys watching her 7-year-old brother. She has the love and support of her family, and we will guide her in the right direction."

That's a big start. The reason you are reading about what happened is that the girl is brave enough, and wise enough, to know that keeping silent about the sadistic and ignorant acts of others only enables them to continue to hurt people. Exposing them to the light of day shows them to be what they are: cowards.

She told me it was all right to write about what was done to her. The reason, she said, is that "people who do that kind of thing have to know that it really hurts the people they do it to." Some of the children who came to her door, she said, have since told her that they didn't know how to say no to the ones who planned it. But one girl in school asked her if what the group had done had hurt her: "When I said yes, she said, `Ha ha, good.'"

She said that even if telling her story leads to more cruelty directed at her, it is worth it to her because many other people may understand that this kind of thing has got to stop.

I told her how much I admired her, and how many other people will when they read about her; I told her that the lack of courage on the part of the people who did this to her will catch up with them. They have already demonstrated far more about themselves than whatever they tried to say about her.

I told her about a line from literature: "strong at the broken places." I said that when people hurt you, you can turn it around by growing to be especially strong at the exact area of yourself that they tried to break.

Even though she and her parents said it would be all right to name her, I'm not going to. The children in her school, and the parents in the community, will know. They are the ones I want to be aware of just how fine and good a young person she is, and just how shameful and small are the people who did this to her -- as are the parents who allowed it. I want them to know just how highly so many people are thinking of her right at this moment -- and how much contempt they are feeling for the people who tried to hurt her, and who hoped no one would call them on it.

I'm not going to name the school here. But I spoke with the principal, whose name is Jim Kapsa. He backed up this whole story; he says it happened just the way you read it here. What he didn't say -- but what was evident behind the sadness in his voice -- was that he knows he's got some sick children in his school, and, perhaps even more worrisome, other students who are too afraid not to follow them. He said the girl is a lovely person; he said she is not the problem.

The problem is the people who came to her door that Friday night, and what they represent. They did it as darkness was falling. In the light, they are so ugly.



JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

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