Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I forgive you
and the fear returns,
again and again.
Just as with you,
it does not listen.

I forgive you
and the sadness returns,
clinging to my heart.
Just as with you,
it pulls me apart.

I forgive you
and the anger returns,
thumping within my head.
Just as with you,
I see black or red.

I forgive you
and the self-doubt returns,
asking what if, what if.
Just as with you,
a hard weight to lift.

I forgive you
and I realize again
just how hard it is.
To forget this fear
that was your gift.

I forgive you
and am burdened again
by the weight upon my soul.
To rise from this sadness
is my next goal.

I forgive you
and I suddenly see
the anger is not there.
For I have moved from its house
and left the cupboard bare.

I forgive you
and I hear again
what if, what if, what if.
I worry less by the day
for I know what the answer is.

I forgive you,
again and again,
until I reach that place,
Where these things no longer rise
each time I see your face.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Maybe Tomorrow

When will it be over?
When will we be equal?
When will we be safe
From selfishness and evil?
Will it be today
With the end of school?
Or will it be at work
Where cliques become uncool?
Maybe when booze and drugs
Are banished from our lands
Will I then be safe
From unwelcome hands?
When there are no more guns
And no one carries knives
Will there then be no one
Who steals people’s lives?
When we are successful
In keeping bombs from teens
Will the board no longer
Allow bullies to “tease”?
When we can no longer
Hit for any reason
Will what they do to us
Rank up there with treason?
We are the generations
That will own this land tomorrow
But while it’s still today
Will you refuse to end our sorrow?
Or will you only tie our hands
While leaving theirs unbound,
Allowed to roam our bodies
Allowed our dreams to hound
Will you allow them to violate us
In the worst possible way
Though if I bear a knife
You would lock me away?
Will you always measure a threat
By which of us is armed?
Or will you one day know
The true nature of harm?
Will you always focus most
On the drugs and booze,
Thinking Eminem’s at fault
For kids that make the news?
Or will you one day notice
The looks in their eyes
And notice it wasn’t a set of lyrics
That guided his skin to mine
Every issue is answered
If you listen to every side
But only the wrong will win
If the rules support the lies
Those who own the land today
Are those making the rules
Maybe tomorrow we will see
True safety in our schools.
--Maybe Tomorrow, 2010

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My response to the CT shooting

Over the last couple days, I've been asking people on my wall: "Without discussing gun control, comment below with what you will do to reduce and/or eliminate school violence in the future--be it homicides/suicides, physical/verbal bullying, threats, etc.? Likewise, what can others do?" The overwhelming response is gun control, followed closely by yanking their kids from public schools and doing home-schooling. Both of these would help; but, as one person on a friend's page said "it would be like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound." Unless we actually eliminated every gun in the U.S and every single child were home-schooled--neither of which is ever going to happen--neither of these solutions would come anywhere close to solving the problem.

Unfortunately, I got very little feedback on my post, which supposes that guns laws and homeschooling are the only solutions most people are thinking of, and those who are likely to agree with what I'm about to say just didn't my page. Thank you Facebook administrators. The previously-mentioned friend of a friend also said "The U.S. has more laws than any other country in the world, and more lawyers per capita than any country in the world. We have the most people in prisons. We spend more money on inmates than we do on education. We have police departments filing for bankruptcy. Fix that and we may be heading in the right direction." I honestly don't know how much of this is true without extensive time spent on google, but I know this much: education is not a financial priority for us. We spend more money on lotteries, beautifying our counties, bailing out CEOs who obviously shouldn't be in management, padding the pockets of people in the federal government, etc. On an individual/community level, we complain about schools whenever we are inconvenienced/offended by something, but we don't actually do anything about it or stick with it long enough to accomplish anything. Most of us don't support our schools in any way except through our taxes and the obligatory purchase of classroom supplies like Kleenex boxes and printer paper.

Police departments are notoriously underfunded. Kevlar vests that should have been replaced can't be and police dogs don't have vests at all. That police departments are filing for bankruptcy is atrocious. On the flipside, even with the necessary funding, police can't be everywhere they need to be and are continuously forced to follow stupid laws that keep them from doing their jobs right. That an officer can't defend him/herself from a real threat without worrying about being charged with assault & battery is ridiculous. That an officer can't subdue an irate fastfood customer--in a completely appropriate and professional manner--without being accused of undue force/racism is ridiculous. That an officer has to yell "Police! Freeze!" before taking out someone who is already waving a gun around is perhaps even more ridiculous. I'm not saying that person should be killed, but I think the average police officer can disable a gunman without killing him/her. Then, there's the prison system. Because of our so-called human rights groups, we as a society would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to house killers and sex offenders than have the death penalty. We would rather let them out on parole/probation to save money, risk them getting out on their own or release them at the end of their sentences--completely ignoring the very real risk they pose to other people--instead of having the death penalty because, somehow, the death penalty is inhumane. It's not inhumane for traitors, most terrorists or spies, for people who kill police officers or people who in any way threaten a government official; but, for every other person convicted of the same crime, it's inhumane. The cost of a single bullet far outweighs the cost of one or more prison sentences, the cost of the police who have to apprehend him/her (again in some cases) and the costs incurred by future victims because the system allowed a clearly dangerous person to live and go free.

My answer to the first question posed is this: There are no short-term answers to violence. There never are and probably never will be. Even in a military state, criminals have guns and the kind of military state that would eliminate all guns can't eliminate everything that could be used as a weapon or eliminate violence. As a society, we need to take a real stand against abuse, give the police what they need to succeed, stop relying 100% on the police to solve every problem we encounter, take guns off the internet and stop trying to disarm non-criminals. Likewise, we need to enforce current laws and change the unhelpful ones to better accomplish this purpose. Having more laws has yet to get us anywhere. What we need is better laws and the will/ability to actually enforce them. On the same token, we need to be willing/able to defend ourselves. If I'm assaulted while walking home one night, the assailant isn't going to wait while I call the police, then keep waiting for them to arrive and save me. Likewise, I'm not going to faint or run away from a guy with a gun in the hopes that he doesn't shoot me. I'm going to try to talk him down and, if that doesn't work (or isn't an option), I'm going to fight back and, if there's no way to succeed without wounding and/or killing him, so be it. Police officers have recommended that people obtain concealed weapons permits and carry guns, simply because the police can't always be there when you need them. It's an impossibility. At the same time, schools need to be made safer. I do believe that teachers should be armed. I also believe that teachers should recognize and properly address all forms of abuse and should, in every way, do the best that can be done as teachers. A school that can succeed on a curricular level and stand firmly against all forms of violence is going to be a safe school. Frankly, it's not rational to have airport type security in every school, but it is rational to have metal detectors at the main doors of the school and to keep all other doors locked during classes, so that people can go out through those doors, but can't come in. Every school I believe is supposed to have a school resource officer. He/she is usually, if not always, an active or retired police officer. That would be the ideal person to be near those metal detectors if/when one goes off. If your SRO is too busy to do this, hire a second one.

Outside of gun laws, we need to instate the same set of values in every school in the country. The same rules, the same procedures and the same consequences for all forms of abuse. What gets a person expelled in one school should not get him/her a slap on the wrist in another, and it shouldn't take forever plus some to expel that person for qualified offenses. Sexual harassment after an initial warning should result in suspension and possibly a change in schedule. Sexual harassment that is deliberately pervasive and/or physical should immediately result in suspension and a change in schedule. Any escalation should result in a stiffer penalty, whether suspension and becoming a principal's aide (yes, I've seen that work) and/or an immediate transfer to the alternative school. In cases where the person poses a danger to other students, s/he should be expelled. Individually, in the community and nationally, we need to teach respectful relationships--to whatever degree those relationships are--through our words and actions. In the 90s, there were community/school groups in Michigan as well as other states that did exactly this, and were successful, but were forced to stop due to lack of funds. Between their efforts and the general concept of respect/self-respect, there's no reason to believe it wouldn't work over-all. No, this isn't going to eliminate violence completely. That's never going to happen; but, nearly half of children are victims of child abuse/peer bullying. An estimated 48% of teens were victims of peer sexual abuse last year. An estimated 1:4 women and 1:5 men are victims of sexual assault each year. In many cases of violence, we later learn that the person was a victim of abuse. Whether you understand abuse or not, it does very serious things to a person's mind and inhibitions. Though there are a lot of abuse victims who don't turn violent, the majority of violent offenders are said to have abused. Whether or not Adam Lanza was abused, there's no reason for why we can't reduce these numbers to almost zero, except that it requires actual work and requires people to work together. Eric and Dylan, the shooters at Columbine High, were victims of bullying. A near case my SRO in high school spoke of was a result of bullying. A threatened shooting in, I think, Georgia was a result of bullying. Because we as a society refuse to take a stand against abuse and abusive behaviors, another 20 children are dead. Before you get pissed off and think I'm blaming you, I'm not. I'm blaming society as a whole--what we accept outright, what we ignore, what we know we should do but don't, which groups and beliefs we give the most free rein to, etc. Even while saying abuse is wrong, we allow video games/music/tv shows that desensitize our kids to violence, we encourage and/or ignore abuse, blame the victims, give excess sympathy to the perpetrators, excuse the schools for knowing and doing nothing, etc. These are all things that need to change before we will see anywhere near an elimination in violence. Until then, we're just complaining because nothing will change.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Short Story

Looking at the clock, Michael realized how long it had been since he'd gotten home from his morning shift at the Feed & Seed. It had been passed down from his grandparents, to his father and, then, to him. It would be another hour before his wife, Christie, got home from her job at the hospital. Fondly, he remembered the day they met, in his senior year of college. She had come into the store to purchase a pack of nails and he had been running the counter. They had met for coffee the next day and fell in love almost immediately, or, at least, he did. Immediately, he had known that there was something special about her. For as long as he could remember, he had felt called to help people. In talking, he learned that she too wanted to help people. She said she felt as if it was her purpose in life--that, if she were born for only one thing, it was to be a doctor. She wanted it so much that she was willing to do it for free. Call it a tad self-centered, but he was glad she didn't have to. Upon graduation, she had received an offer from a prestigious hospital nearby to work full-time. To be honest, he didn't have stomach to work in an ER. What he wanted to do was to be a counselor. He wanted to clothe the poor and feed the hungry. He wanted everyone to have a home and a job. He wanted to abolish the helplessness, hurt and anger so many people were forced to live with. Above all, he wanted to give hope. He wanted everyone to know that someone cared enough to notice them, really notice, and step up. Unable to do everything, he had done all he could, throwing himself into everything he could, every chance he had. Everytime he had seen someone in his community in need, he had acted. He organized food drives and other community events continuously.

One day, he was called by James, the head of a local like-minded nonprofit, and asked to come speak. It had come to the man's attention that Michael was very well-thought of in the community--so much so that he could go almost nowhere without hearing about something Michael had done. After learning more about him and consulting a close friend, James decided to meet him in person. That was almost a year ago and he was now speaking weekly. It made for very busy days, between the Feed & Seed, planning what he would speak on the following weekend and everything he still did in the community, but he wouldn't have it any other way. If and when he retired, he would slow down. Maybe.

Stretching, Michael rose from the somewhat uncomfortable desk chair and stepped into the hall. It was time to put dinner in the oven. He liked to surprise Christie whenever he could and the surest way to do it was by having a delicious dinner waiting for her on the days she had to work longer shifts, or by picking her up after work for dinner at a restaurant, or by having a bundle of flowers delivered to her at work. Today, it was dinner at home. Bending to retrieve his mail from the floor below the slot in the door, his back protested the effort and, for easily the thousandth time, he vowed to purchase another, more comfortable chair the first chance he got. He was not even thirty yet and he felt old some days. Guiltily, he realized, as he always did, that he had been saying this for a couple years. Again, he supposed he shouldn't complain about his chair as he could have to go without a chair and, indeed, there were people less fortunate than he. The padding was replaced with a pillow the Fall before last, and twice since, but the chair itself was still intact. His wife kept saying that, one of these days, she would replace his chair, no matter how much he protested. Once, he had even agreed, but then had seen the price tag on a decent desk chair and had bought a seat cushion instead. For the price of a desk chair, he could feed a family of three for nearly a month. He thought he might go ahead and get the desk chair this time. They had a little money in the savings account. For a while, Christie was getting flack from some of her colleagues about how much money they gave away each month, but she would just smile until, finally, they stopped. She said she explained her outlook on life the first couple times, but they thought it was foolish. Her colleagues dreamed of nicer houses, new cars and at least one vacation trip each year. She however had grown up poor and was happy to have a car she could count on, a comfortable house and the security of being able to pay the bills. The rest was extra. Over the last several months, they had expanded their outreach to include the surrounding counties. He and his wife were truly fortunate to be able to do so much for people and to see such good things happening in the lives of those around them.

After setting the timer, Michael stepped back into the office and used his pocket knife to open the first of the envelopes, then eased himself back into the chair. It was a letter from a young couple, thanking him for the time he had spent with them over the past few months. Barely out of high school, they had found themselves expecting a child and the father had freaked out. He had wanted an abortion, but she had not been raised to believe in abortions. They fought bitterly and he walked out. Not knowing what else to do, she had tearfully called Michael, an old family friend, and he called her boyfriend. Four hours later, they reconciled with Michael's promise to help in every way possible, from maternity supplies to help with the bills to, if necessary, help finding adoptive parents. If they decided to keep the child, he promised to continue helping for as long as he could. As it happened, business had recently picked up at the store. In addition to the job he had, the father would be working part-time there until they decided what they wanted to do. Another letter was less heart-warming, but nonetheless welcome for its significance. A young teenage boy had been sexually abused by a relative and, when he told his parents, was called a liar and punished. Devastated, he had run away. Michael had been on the way back from the grocery store when he saw the boy huddled under an overhang, waiting out the rain storm. Without thinking twice, he had pulled over immediately and, after introducing himself, gave him a ride home. They talked for a while and, after dinner, he called the police and social services. Thankfully, they agreed to let him stay with Michael and his wife until his aunt and uncle could come. Today, almost two weeks after helping him move, Michael was reading a letter in which the boy thanked him for everything, then moved on to talking about his new life.

Michael swallowed the lump in his throat and wiped his eyes. Setting the bills aside to go through later, he returned his attention to the speech in front of him. He only had another day to finish it, but he just didn't know what to speak on. Nothing seemed right. Then, he thought of a conversation he had overheard the other day, as he was closing the store. He thought of the concern in the voices of the small group of people, and the frustration on their faces. The country was steadily growing more apathetic as the years passed and people were not only not being helped, but were being blamed for circumstances that often, they had no control over. This was a large part of his passion in life. Even if he were the only one, he wanted to be the exception. As he passed by, he recognized them from the nonprofit. They were there almost every week when he spoke. It had unsettled him to hear one of them express disappointment in the fact that neither he nor James ever spoke on political issues. The others had agreed, saying that they wished more community leaders would speak up. Many times, he had spoken on social issues, but never political ones. Now, especially with the elections coming up, he knew what he would say.

* * *

It had been a few weeks since he gave his speech and it had been very well-received--so well, in fact, that his email account had been flooded with requests to hear him speak on various other subjects. Michael dropped onto the sofa and opened an official-looking envelope that had arrived that day. Scanning the page, he thought it must be a mistake. He had broken no laws. Immediately, he picked up the phone and called the number at the bottom.

"Hello? How may I direct your call?" a calm, soothing voice answered.

"Good afternoon. I'd like to speak to Senator Donaldson, please."

"He's out on business. Is there something I can do for you?"

"I just received a letter from him informing me that I am not allowed to speak on political issues because the place in which I choose to do so does not pay taxes."

"Um, I don't know why that would be a problem. Could you please give me more info? Why does it not pay taxes?

"It's categorized federally as a nonprofit."

"I see. I'm sure there must have been a misunderstanding. If you could please hold one moment, Senator Bryant just walked in. Hopefully, he can straighten this out."

"Thank you."

"Hello. This is Senator Bryant."

"Good afternoon. This is Michael Patton. I'm on the staff of the Foothills Outreach Center in Maryton, South Carolina. I received a letter from Senator Donaldson today informing me that I am not allowed to speak on political issues because the center is a nonprofit and, therefore, does not pay taxes. In addition, I've been warned that, if I continue, we will lose our nonprofit status and be taxed like everyone else."

"That's correct."

Taking a deep breath, Michael swallowed his rising anger and spoke calmly. "Why exactly is it not allowed? Nothing I have said is illegal, arousing of violence, hate or bias, or, in any other way, in violation of any law."

"It is not allowed because your organization does not pay taxes. In addition to being a nonprofit, it is a religious one and, thus, for you to speak on political issues is a violation of the Separation of Church and State because your doing so mixes your religious beliefs and politics."

"I see. Well, on the first point, that the center does not pay taxes does not mean I do not pay taxes. As the owner of the Feed & Seed here in Maryton, I pay taxes. My wife, a doctor, pays a lot in taxes. We pay taxes on everything except food, from our house, to our car, to the things we purchase. Every, or nearly every, person who attends each week pays taxes. Am I to understand then that, on this point alone, my Constitutional right to freedom of speech applies everywhere I go, anytime of day or night, except in this one place, where, it just so happens that a large portion of my community has grown accustomed to meeting, and that their Constitutional right to freedom of speech applies everywhere except there?"

"Well, I...I guess not, but there's also the second part. The Separation of Church and State is what complicates things. It clearly states that there is a barrier between religion and politics, keeping any religious group from influencing how the country is run."

"On the contrary, it does not say that. If it did, almost no one in the country could vote because the majority of the country claims one religion or another and religious beliefs play a heavy role in people's lives. What this statement says is "
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." This was written in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. I understand that our founding fathers were very religious men and, in many of Jefferson's writings, he encouraged the free exercise of religion. Therefore, as long as church leaders do not encourage their congregations to treat others with bias, to commit acts of violence or to break any other laws, there is no law that stops us, as pastors, from speaking about social or political issues. I earnestly believe it to be to the benefit of the country and its people for church leaders to speak on social issues because people look to their leaders for guidance and support. When we are able to give that, people are able to live in a more structured and successful manner. Fewer laws are broken. Communities are safer, families are stronger and, in some cases, businesses are successful. If you want to look up Maryton sometime, you'll see what I mean."

"I'm familiar with Maryton," he said quietly.

"Then, you know what it was like, not that many years ago, and how much it's changed. I'm not one to toot my own horn; but, without my work, and without the Foothills Outreach Center, Maryton would still be going down that dark road it was on before."

There was a long, thoughtful moment of silence. "I have to go, but you've given me a lot to think about today. The more I think about it, the more I realize how many churches and church-based organizations there are in the U.S. To silence all of them would likely cripple our country, more than it already has been. I will be spending a lot of time this week researching the laws and speaking with Senator Donaldson, in order to, hopefully, resolve this issue. I would advise that you hold onto the letter you received, just in case, but I don't think you're going to have any further issues."

"Thank you."

"My pleasure. Thank you."

Hanging up the phone, Michael rested his face in his hands and wearily thanked God for the way that conversation had turned out. That it had even been an issue told him it would again and he was all too aware of how different it would have been if Senator Bryant had been just a little less open-minded, a little more anti-religion. Until then, he had only really thought of himself as an advocate and community leader. Being a pastor wasn't something he really put a lot of significance in, since he represented Christ in everything he said and did. Now, it took on new meaning. Someone had contacted the senators' office with a complaint against him, not because he was speaking about social and political beliefs, but because he dared to do so as a pastor. If he were not a pastor, that person would most likely have gone about his/her business, not appreciating his viewpoint, but not filing a complaint either. He made a note to email James later, just in case he received this letter too. With resolve, he also made a note to write his next speech--sermon--on the Separation of Church and State and what the Bible says about being involved in society and politics.


To the best of my knowledge, no churches have yet received notices like this, but they are continuously being sued, and threatened with lawsuits, for teaching and enforcing Biblical standards that are contradictory to what other members of society want, even though they are not in violation of any laws and only apply within the boundaries of their individual churches. Likewise, there is a growing movement demanding that churches either stop speaking about social/political beliefs or that they be taxed separately for their right to do so. As Americans, we already have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, without limits on where and when, as long as we do not violate other laws in doing so. Please speak up now for the First Amendment and the true meaning of the Separation of Church and State before every member of the country is silenced.

Why, you ask, do I say every member? Because "religion" is defined as a person's beliefs with regard to a deity or deities. As such, by definition, even atheism is a religion because, as strongly as I believe in God, atheists believe there is none. As strongly as I believe that God's word has a role in every aspect of my life, many people--believers and nonbelievers--believe it does not, that it should only apply to my personal life and, then, only as far as it doesn't affect anyone else--terms that, to truly meet, I would have to be a hermit. To truly remove religious beliefs from society and politics, we would have to remove religion from the country. Because even atheism is a religion, it's pointless to even try. So, please eliminate this form of bigotry against churches by speaking up for our rights as Americans and the true meaning of the Separation of Church and State. If you have the courage, go one step further and encourage your church leaders to get involved more, in their communities and socially.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Night Sighs by Emma Meade, available through My only regret is that they're short stories and that there weren't more of them. As good as the ending was, I would like to have kept reading.

    "It’s who I am."
    "A vampire Alex."
    "I never make them suffer."
    "My hero."
    Tristan pushed her away and she stood. Sunlight had crept halfway across the dusty, attic floor and he watched Alex step back into it, out of his reach.
    "What do you want from me?" he asked after a long minute’s silence.
    Alex shook her head.
    "Nothing but this."
    "Do you really love me?" Tristan wanted to know, not releasing her from his unwavering gaze. He never blinked.
    Alex smiled warmly. "More than anything else in this world."
    "Promise," she said as if to a child.

* * *

    "She left me that morning," Tristan spoke to his avid audience. "Crept out into the light, knowing I couldn’t follow. Saving herself and me is how she put it. Because the night was too dark for her..."
    A roar rose up from the 50,000 strong crowd in the rural landscape miles outside London. Tristan stepped back from the microphone and lowered his head. His long black mane had been cut into jagged spikes. Silver crosses hung from his ears and on a chain around his neck, gleaming brightly against his black t-shirt and dark ripped jeans. A glance behind at his band told him they were good to go.
    The moon illuminated the five vampires on the roofless stage, spotlighting Tristan as the opening bars on the piano sounded. His fans screamed again. Some were crying, others fainting, many more were as high as the grey clouds overhead.
    Because the Night was a favourite cover the band liked to perform. Another haunting note on the piano followed and then the first strum of Tristan’s guitar. His thumb scraping well used strings was met with the wild screams of teenage girls. He satisfied them with a few more twangs.
    And then. Silence. The band stopped. The crowd was unsure, excited and dizzy with anticipation.
    Tristan lifted his head and stared straight ahead. The cameras focused on him for a close up and his face appeared on the dozens of temporarily erected screens throughout the park.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Does Bullying Lead to Workplace Violence?"

A friend recently forwarded info from a "webinar" by this title and asked me to repost my response. The simple answer is yes. It does lead to workplace violence because bullies are not one-dimensional beings that exist only is certain settings. Bullying is not a phase that people naturally grow out of by the time they turn 18 and/or join the workforce. If you think it is, you're one of those few, lucky people who has worked only in harmonious and respectful environments and I would love to know where. :) In a nutshell, what happens in school happens in society and vice versa. Further, school and childhood are the foundation of people's lives. What happens when you're growing up serves as the basis for your entire life. If you spend your entire childhood being abused, you are not going to enter the workforce with the same psychological well-being of someone who is raised properly, nor with the same psychologically well-being of the person who spends his/her childhood bullying people. Until he/she learns otherwise, the abuse victim will be untrusting, defensive, distant and/or will constantly second-guess him/herself for fear of offending someone. The abuser will assume he/she will get everything he/she wants, one way or another. It's only a question of whether it will be by request, by charm or by aggression. If there's someone he/she doesn't feel respect toward, he/she will continue to be abusive, secure in knowledge that no one will stop him/her because no one ever has. The person who was properly raised will enter the workforce at least semi-assertive and confident in his/her abilities. Who you are growing up serves as the foundation for who you are as an adult. The only exceptions I know of are those who are forced to recreate themselves from scratch, discarding parts or all of their childhoods.

So, how do you address workplace bullying? The same way you address bullying everywhere else.

** Know your company's policies and your legal rights. I don't mean this in a general sense. Before you can press the issue with a company who has decided to ignore your complaints, you have to know exactly what your rights are and in what specific ways they've been violated. If you don't, they can say anything and how will you know whether or not it's true?

**Be willing to stand up to the bully. As a general rule, I would recommend talking to the bully before talking to anyone else. The only time this shouldn't be done is when you honestly believe it will make matters worse and/or when you are too intimidated to try. The latter is not an insult or a dare. It's simply the reality of abuse. If you are not intimidated, angry, humiliated, upset and/or afraid, the bully hasn't done anything you can file a complaint about. It took several years for me to get to this point, but I did. When someone was being a prick and/or was too touchy-feely, I pulled him aside and told him firmly and quietly that I found his behavior to be offensive. I was very specific in what I found offensive and told him that, if he continued, I would file a complaint with the store manager. He continued, I filed a complaint and the issue ended. The job prior to that one didn't go so well. I filed 5 separate complaints against the same person. Nothing was done until the owner heard me threaten to file a complaint with the labor board for creation of a hostile work environment. She and I met. She's a bully herself, but doesn't want to deal with the labor board; so, she met with the managers and the issue with this coworker was resolved.
This is not to say that you should attempt to resolve things by reasoning with the bully. There's a big difference between handling things professionally and attempting to reason. It's enough to tell him/her exactly what you find offensive and, if necessary, why you find it offensive. For example, the above-mentioned touchy-feely coworker liked to casually touch female coworkers. It was always on the shoulder, arm, back or side. I found this offensive and asked him not to touch me. He asked why I found it offensive. As I had no problem with him, I told him the truth--which was that I had been sexually harassed in high school and do not like to be touched. Furthermore, I consider touching of that nature to be appropriate for boy/girlfriends, which we are not, and universally inappropriate in the workplace. I told him I like him as a friend, but have no interest in him otherwise. Some days to a week later, he cornered me in drivethru and did so again, at which time I reminded him, then and there, in front of anyone nearby, that I do not want to be touched in any manner that is not specifically designed to get my attention, and then only if speaking isn't effective. It was a lengthy, cold and quiet conversation, but it didn't happen again.

**If talking to the bully doesn't solve the problem, you can/should file a detailed complaint with the manager immediately, in writing. Keep a copy. Oral complaints are easily forgotten and/or ignored, leading to a case of "he said, she said." Then, there's the possible issue of what you said vs. what the manager later claims you said--an issue that is completely avoidable by keeping a copy of your complaint.

**Above all, you need to keep your calm and remind yourself that you are a professional, whether you're talking to the bully, the management or coworkers who think it's their business. You are an adult (or teen), with the legal right to a safe, professional work environment. If the manager isn't willing to step in, or if the manager is the bully, talk to the next manager up. This option goes all the way up to the labor board. Keep detailed records of what, when and the outcomes of meetings with the bully and supervisors. Naturally, you also have the option to leave, but jobs are hard to come by and, frankly, leaving is the easy way out, but is otherwise a bad choice. It's the same as running away. All it takes is for the bully or other coworkers to find you again and the problem can be rekindled. Then, there are the psychological consequences, like lack of self-confidence and the inability to handle issues with future bullies. Thus, when you talk to the bully or the management, keep your calm. Do not cry or yell. Unless you can do it with a sadistic smile, don't curse. :) Mostly kidding. It's a good idea not to curse at all. Among other reasons, it makes you look bad to the management and, if you're cursing at a manager, you can get fired for insubordination.

**You may also find yourself dealing with the bully in the general course of work. For example, one person I had to deal with was a crew trainer. For those not familiar with the fastfood environment, a crew trainer is the position between crew and management. His/her job is to correct when/when mistakes are made, ask crew members to help with occasional tasks and do lesser management-related jobs. His/her job is not to micromanage and/or criticize crew members, to tell crew members how to do their jobs, etc. This coworker had a superiority complex and was generally abusive toward others. Thus, when he corrected me on something, I acknowledged him politely and took his advise. If he asked me to do something that was not my job, I told him that I was busy, but would get to it the first chance I got. As I was the back drivethru person, I was busy. By nature of my job, I did not have the ready opportunity to run errands or mop something up somewhere, and he knew this. As such, he should have asked someone else because for me to do so would have meant putting customers on hold, which is to be avoided whenever possible. Once, when I politely asked him to let me do my job, he informed that it was his job as crew trainer to supervise people. I in turn told him what his job is and isn't. It just so happens that a manager was nearby when this conversation took place and sided with me. Point of story: it never serves to be rude to coworkers or managers, but it's always a good idea to know everything you can about the workplace. Not knowing how to do someone else's job doesn't mean you don't know what his/her job entails. Another was the coworker I filed 5 separate complaints against. If there was another in the kitchen with him, I would address her instead--not as a matter of exclusion, but to avoid trouble. If, however, he was the one in the kitchen or in charge of that particular position, I addressed him, as I would anyone else. This is an important part of working with abusive people. You can't always avoid them and, obviously, you can't always clash with them.

**Above all, remember what your job is, what his/her job is and what needs to be done to make the business work. If your coworker is a world-class prick and you hate him/her with a passion, he/she is still your coworker. Speak to him/her about the little things (early on--not all of them). Report the big things and the subsequent little things. Follow through on your complaints, continuing up the chain of command until something is done. In the meantime, do your job to perfection. Doing this lends meaning to the childhood rhyme "I'm rubber and you're glue."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


They were sitting on Jacob’s bed, with him leaning against the headboard. He looked as if he was trying to explain something to someone who just wasn’t getting it, even though she also knew he understood what she was saying.
“Lauren. What I’m saying is this: Mrs. Williams was right in that you don’t have to put up with it. With or without the school’s support, you can stop them by whatever means you think necessary, as long as you choose intelligently and it doesn’t endanger other people. Contrary to what Dad says, you can hit one of them if he touches you, tries to touch you or if, for any reason, you feel that you can’t get away from him otherwise. And the school could do something about it, if they wanted to risk the damage it would do to their reputation.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re a generally good student, you’ve never even been in detention for anything more than having forgotten your ID badge, you don’t drink and you don’t smoke. Plus, you dress like I do, except in girl’s clothes and have never bothered with make-up. Long story short, you can’t be making it up because why would you? You can’t be crazy because your grades are good and you don’t drink or smoke, plus it would be documented by now if you were.”
“Ha ha.”
“Thought you’d like that. Also, it can’t be claimed that you encouraged them because you prefer T-shirts and jeans and you don’t flirt. There’s nothing they could say to excuse their actions, or lack thereof, and just trying it would make them look worse than they already would.”
“So, what are you suggesting I do?”
“Whatever you have to. If possible, cover your rear when you do. For now though, keep researching sexual harassment. Like they say, knowledge is power.”
“But knowledge isn’t making it stop. It’s just pissing me off because I know more about the wrongness of it.”
He laughed, much to her irritation. “That’s because you haven’t decided yet what you’re going to do to stop it. You’re still wrapped up in the possible consequences of defending yourself. When you get to the point where you can see things more clearly, knowledge will be very useful.”
“And how do you know all this?”
“I just do. But, you know, worst case scenario, you could say ‘to Hell with it’ and knock one of them out because you feel like it. I guarantee he won’t come near you again.” They both laughed.
* * *

…Some say there’s no hope at all but I know… Chasen’s a nice band to wake up to… Rise up when it gets us down. It’ll be the voice in a blaring crowd… Your love will lead us home. It goes on and on and on and on…Man, I wish I could just stay home today. Finish listening to this song, cut the radio off and go back to sleep…Of course, to do that, I would first have to get up…Oh well.
Cautiously opening her eyes, she squinted against the sunlight streaming around one side of her curtain and swore for the umpteenth time to weigh that side of the curtain down with something so it wouldn’t shift with the air from the vent. Groan. She wiped the crusty stuff from her eyes. B day, and all the bull that goes with it. Its first period with Kyle and Trey, then fourth period with Braden and Andrew, but at least I shouldn’t see any of them at lunch today. Grunt. “Shouldn’t” being the key word there. Rolling herself out and onto her feet, she was out the door just behind her brother.
“About time, Sleepy-Head,” he teased her with a mischievous grin.
“Oh, please,” she smirked. “You were one minute ahead of me and you know it.”
“But I was ahead of you. And, to think, you got a whole 30 minutes more sleep not having to ride the bus today.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Climbing into the passenger seat of his car and tossing her bag in the back, she muttered, “I hate school.”
“Me, too. Fortunately, this year at least is almost over.”
“Yes, and then I have two more.”
“Well yeah, but…anyway, let’s go.”
I’m going to have to make a point of coming back here one day with a digital camera. Such a wonderful view in most any direction that it almost begs the question as to how such beauty can exist somewhere that lets such bad things happen. A mask? She looked above the passing trees at the exposed rock face of one of the nearby mountains. Not having a camera, I’d love to sit out here sometime and draw the mountains, sky, and endless trees. If I ever got the time that is, and was in the mood to draw at the same time… As they rounded a turn, she looked down at a dirt road winding through the woods. I wonder if people really live down these roads. Four-wheel drives—gotta love ‘em, ‘cause Lord knows, it’s the only way you’re gonna get in or out of there after a storm like that one we had a couple weeks ago. Still immersed in her thoughts when they pulled into the parking lot of Battered Rock High School, she was struck anew by just how many people can be in a given space without being part of an event. Some thousand students here I think someone said.
“I’m going to say hi to Scott. See you in a couple minutes.”
“See ya.” Got fifteen minutes ‘til the bell rings. Wonder what’s for breakfast today, and will I need those cereal bars before lunch. Heading for the cafeteria, she stepped around people and groups without conscious thought. Oh, crap! There’s a test in Psychology today that I completely forgot about. Guess I’ll be spending part of Study Hall looking at my notes… Walking between a big-wheel truck and a low-rider, she stepped around another group of students.
“Hey, Lauren. How you doin’?”
Turning, she came face to face with Kyle and froze. He was still leaning casually against the back passenger-side door, yet there seemed a sort of tension in his muscles as if he was ready to move at a moment’s notice. She knew her face had gone pale. Why is he out here? I never see him out here this early. As the realization dawned that he may have been waiting for her, she started to walk away.
“Why’re you scared? I’m not gonna hurt you.”
He was laughing at her. It was tempting to rip into him just for that, but she continued to walk. She knew somehow that he wasn’t going to just let her go...