Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bullies don't get invited to birthday parties.

A follow-up to this post.

Mrs. Johnson's third grade class knew all about Johnny.

He had picked on Susie, had a few of his bully friends beat up Bobby, and he had threatened the entire Kindergarten class. Nobody liked Johnny. He was just plain mean.

Johnny went to another school across town. The kids in Mrs. Johnson's class heard that Johnny and a group of mean kids had vandalized the neighborhood. In fact, they were pretty sure that Johnny had stocked an entire arsenal of dirt clods and slingshots in his own backyard. No one really had proof, but everyone just knew.

One day, Billy, a little boy in Mrs. Johnson's class, had a birthday party. It was supposed to be the best birthday party ever with balloons and prizes, a jumpy castle and Happy Meals for all. All of the kids in Mrs. Johnson's class were invited. Everyone was so excited.

Then Johnny showed up.

The kids were shocked.

But then they learned that Billy had invited Johnny.

Invited Johnny?

When Billy's friends asked why Johnny had been invited, this is what Billy said...

"Everyone in our class is so nice and Johnny is so mean. I want Johnny to see what it is like to be nice, to not be a bully. He should be at a party where everyone is allowed to play with all the toys and everyone gets a goody bag at the end. Just because Johnny doesn't have parties like that, doesn't mean I shouldn't invite him.

Johnny might learn something about being nice. And while he is here, we can ask him about all the dirt clods and slingshots he has hidden in his yard, and about the time we all heard he and his friends spray painted the neighborhood with graffiti."

One brave little girl stood up in the middle of the play area and said...

"Do you seriously think just because you invite Johnny to this party that he will act nice and learn how not to be a bully?

What makes you think he doesn't have a few dirt clods in his pocket right now? And what if a kid in our class decides to beat up Johnny at this party? What will Johnny do then? Will he use his bully power to get other kids in his neighborhood to come and beat up the kids at our school?

And what about us, Billy?

We are your friends.

Don't we matter to you?

What were you thinking, Billy?"

Then Billy said,"I don't know. All I cared about was the really cool presents."

So Mrs. Johnson's entire third grade class decided to be nice to Johnny at the birthday party. Everyone was on their best behavior. Billy gave Johnny the best seat at the party and let Johnny have the first piece of birthday cake. Even though Johnny said hurtful things to the other children at the party and lied about the dirt clods, he was allowed to be first in line at the jumpy castle and he was given the very best goody bag when it was time to leave.

Other classes heard about the birthday party and how Johnny had been invited, even treated like a guest of honor. They began to think that maybe, just maybe Johnny was not so bad. If Billy had invited him to his party and the entire class had been so kind to Johnny, then maybe Johnny was actually their friend. Maybe Johnny wasn't a bully after all.

And all the while, Johnny had gone back home across town, goody bag in hand, and returned to all of his mean, little bully friends. He and his friends were just as mean as they were before.

And they all had a good laugh about the birthday party while they made new dirt clods and slingshots in Johnny's backyard.


Nancy said...

Okay, so I missed your earlier post and was completely confused about the story. It didn't have the ending I expected....you know, the parable type ending.....

Since I'm the one who read an entire Toni Morrison book and didn't "get it" until the rest of my bookclub spelled it out piece by piece, I'm not surprised.

Sometimes Americans are just ignorant of what freedom is about. It doesn't mean that we should give those who mean harm to our country and all who oppose their views a podium to stand upon to prove how enlightened and tolerant we are. We shouldn't legitimize evil regimes.

Karen said...

I get it and it is brilliant.

I think there are some people at Columbia who ought to be prosecuted for treason but that may just be me...

Roxanne said...

After a day of dealing with Johnnys and Billys and everyone in between, I"m not sure I quite understand it either. . .but here's my take.

Just because we have a vision of what kindess and graciousness and acceptance SHOULD do to encourage people to behave better doesn't mean it always works.

There are millions of people in the world who have WAY different opinions of what "correct" behavior is--even if that correct behavior encourages revenge, retaliation, killing to insure your way to heaven, etc.

Just 'cause we're nice and try to be nice and do our very, very best to make them feel like we're their friend--that doesn't mean they are going to be nice back.

Sometimes it just doesn't work that way. That's why Jesus encouraged his disciples to be as gentle as doves, but as wise as snakes.

Walk by faith, but don't be stupid.