, Newburyport, MA


October 15, 2013

Save your put-downs for arm-wrestling

It is no exaggeration to confess that my elementary school class, both individually and collectively, spent eight years putting down Sam in a very cruel and personal way.

Virtually every morning in the classroom, Sam was greeted with the words: “Hi, pig face!”

And when we saw Sam outside at recess: “Hi, pig face!”

And even at church school, where we were learning to become such good Christians: “Hi, pig face!”

Most of us knew only three things about classmate Sam: that his father owned a taxicab service; that he was the second of nine children; and that his chunky face had a nose that was both large and flat, as if he had walked into a wall.

We chose to focus on the third!

Today, Sam’s parents most likely would find a way to access plastic surgery, but in those days and in my neighborhood, who could afford it?

I don’t recall whether any staff or any classmate ever called Sam aside to assure him that the issue wasn’t so much the shape of his nose as the pigheadedness of his classmates.

And I don’t ever recall staff or classmate calling me or anyone else aside, challenging us to get beyond Sam’s nose to Sam’s heart.

As I look back, Sam had many fine qualities. He had great shoulders for football; he was gifted in art; he was a terrific math student. But we ignored all of that. It was so much easier to focus on the one deformity rather than on the several talents.

If just one kid (especially a popular kid) had said: “Leave him alone,” might it have stopped us all dead in our tracks?

After graduation from grade 8, I lost track of most classmates as I headed for a private school. However, I learned through the grapevine that Sam was receiving, in high school, the same verbal abuse and bullying that had haunted him in elementary.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
Weird 'Wakudoki' Dance Launches Promotional Competition Two women barely avoid being hit by train Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans