There’s always that one kid in school, in the neighborhood, in church, who doesn’t fit in. He is the focal point of jokes, name calling, and even ostracizing. He walks to school alone, eats lunch alone, and plays on the playground alone. In the late 50s and early 60s we’d call him a “nerd” and say he had “cooties.” Usually he was too fat, too skinny, or too short with no oddity being neglected.
In my school long ago, that poor child was named Winston Collins. He was a fair looking boy with blonde hair and brown eyes, but being too fat was the object of our malice. By fat I mean, he had a small bulging tummy and a double chin. He was just enough overweight to mark him for ridicule. And, ridicule we did. We called him “Fatso” and “Fatty, fatty two by four.” He never retaliated; he’d just cower in shame. That made the teasing more delightful.
Each morning Winston kissed his mom good bye and took the trek alone to school. When the kids would tease him, he’d shrug his shoulders and walk a little faster.
His class work was above average; he was a Bluebird in reading. Of all the names he was called, no one called him stupid
Lunch time was very lonely. He’d sit at a table away from the rest and munch his peanut and butter and jelly sandwich. Winston didn’t like the kids to watch him eat as it only added fuel to the name-calling fire.
If lunch time was bad, gym class was even worse. Most of the play and games were done in groups and teams. When it was time to pick partners or teams, Winston was the last to be chosen. He especially hated square dancing where he was partnered with the class chubby girl. At least they had their “deformities” in common.
Some of the teachers and principal noticed the kid’s abuse of Winston. Mr. Adams, the gym teacher, felt responsible to call Mrs. Collins, Winston’s mother, and inform her that Winston was being cruelly teased and needed help with social skills. . .
“Thank you for calling,” Mrs. Collins said. “I’ve been busy with the business from Winston’s dad’s estate. Bob died last fall.”
“Oh, you should have told the faculty!”
“Winston has kept to himself and overeats for comfort. I wish I could help him more, But I have a toddler and a preschooler, too.”
Mr. Adams said, “I’ll help Winston adjust and help him with his self-esteem. We’ll beat those bullies.”
“Thank you so much.”
Mr. Adams had playground duty the next day. He noticed a lonely Winston dangling and swirling on a swing. Brown eyes seeped tear of intense melancholy, and he looked as if he could fly away. Mr. Adams walked up slowly not to shock the poor kid. “Winston, are you all right? Why aren’t you playing with the other kids?”
“I don’t know. The kids don’t like me.”
“They tease you because you don’t know how special you are. Can you play baseball?” he asked hoping to hit a common cord.
“Wow! I love baseball and the Detroit Tigers! I used to play in Little League at the old house. I was pretty good.”
“Let’s see you do your stuff this afternoon. We’ll see how special you are.”
That afternoon in gym the class was eager to play baseball. Mr. Adams cringed as Winston was the last to be picked for a team. The game proceeded, and the kids were having a great time. Winston played outfield and never had a chance to bat.
At the bottom of the last inning the teams were tied, and the bases were loaded. Unfortunately, the kids groaned as Winston came up to bat. Mr. Adams crossed his fingers while the kids looked dismayed.
Winston dug his feet into the ground, lifted the bat, and swung. Going . . . going . . . gone!!! A home run!!! Four players came in, and the Cubs won.
“Amazing, fantastic, outstanding!” cheered his classmates. Mr. Adams bowed his head.
This game and Winston’s play helped his confidence, but it didn’t solve all his problems. He still had to take some teasing, but he shrugged it off. He was on the path to healthy self-esteem and mingling with others.
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