The 11 year old flashlight.

For “legal purposes” I will say that these stories are entirely fictional. Any similarity between this and actual events is purely coincidental.

Once upon a time… there was an altercation @ school.

Boy B was picking on Boy C as he had all year, taking his water bottle and teasing C about it. Boy D told him to stop it. B told him to shut up. D stood up and walked over to B, and told him to give it back. B picked up a ruler and held it out. D stayed between the other boys. B then hit D in the head with the ruler. D stood his ground. He reached out with one hand, grabbed the ruler & with the other hand slapped B’s hand so D now had it. He dropped it.

B then made sure teacher A wasn’t looking, then punched D in the eye. D pushed B to the ground and told him to stop picking on people. B got up and told D he was going to tell on him. D worried about it all day.

When D came home, he immediately told the story to his parent. The lecture & lesson was stressed and he was reminded about the importance of “hockey rules” (the second guy always gets the worse punishment). D was accepting of any punishment he might receive, because B was being a bully, and D was tired of it.

Still, D assured his parent it was over, conditionally. He will defend himself, he will always stand up to bullies when his friends are being hurt. He will always try to use his words first, and he won’t fight on after the other kid has no fight in him. But, he will stand up for “the kids that can’t stand up for themselves.”

In a zero tolerance world, D is the one in danger. He stood up, he joined in, and despite the fact that he was hit & punched, he hit and pushed. He got involved when he didn’t have to be. He didn’t tell the teacher. He went from witness to participant by his actions and his choice. To the school, this may be seen as a “bad” choice.

But, knowing what D can do, knowing that he’s taken kids that are older by three grades, taller by a foot and outweigh him by forty pounds before. Knowing his punches come from his heel and his hips shift at the moment of impact. Knowing his tolerance for pain in the moment is overridden by his sense of what is right… D’s dad was kind of proud.

Knowing that when the boy was down, D knows to drop a knee to the chest, just above the belly to knock the wind out, how to sweep the defending hands to the side and reign down closed fist hammer punches on the nose and eyes and ignore everything else until, someone pulls you off…

Knowing D DID make the choice to get involved, but he also made the choice to stop.

D won’t hold a grudge, because his dad found out about his friend’s older brothers who taught D to wrestle, taught him about MMA and the need to “win,” not just this fight, but all the fights that might come from the crowd. His dad knows, he can’t “unlearn” the techniques, but like any skill, he has to learn to control them. D’s dad had to learn the same lesson.

“It is good to know what you can do, but it’s more important to know what you will do. You have to make that choice for yourself. The anger you feel, whatever is inside you, because of what has happened to you, won’t go away because you hurt someone else. That’s what bullies do. You can tell yourself it’s right and fair, that it’s good. That you’re teaching them a lesson, that you’re showing them there is someone stronger, meaner, better than they are. But when you lay your hands on someone, you’ve become what you think you’re fighting. When you go past them giving up, you’re just a bigger bully.” D’s dad isn’t smart, but he has learned a few things.

Those are the words of D’s grandfather, to his own son, D’s dad. He noticed one morning that his son was wearing long sleeves on a summer day, he saw that his own son’s hands were cut up, his wrists had scratches. He asked him how it happened.

D’s dad let him know, he went to a friend’s house for a party. There was a guy there, dragging a girl out by her hair. D’s dad walked up to the guy and told him to let go of the girl. He pridefully told the story about “saving” the girl. About how words were exchanged, how a punch was thrown, and slipped and how quickly and easily the abuser was put down… how his arms were pinned and how punches were thrown until a friend dragged him off when it was over. D’s dad explained what a good son he was to D’s grandfather. He’d stopped it.

At the end, D’s grandfather asked a simple question. “What happened to the girl?”

D’s dad didn’t have an answer.

D’s grandfather said, “Then it wasn’t about saving her, it was about you looking like a hero. It’s good to know what you can do, but it’s more important to know what you will do…”

He ended with these words, that echo in D’s dad’s mind years later, when his wife was dying of cancer, when his mom became a widow, when he found a new love, “… in situations like this, your first job, is to protect the girl.” And D’s dad would learn, “the girl” is anyone being pushed around, the minority, by viewpoint, race, by size, religion, age, gender identity, your wife, your children, your friends… “protect the girl.”

Do not try to “save the girl” because they ultimately must save themselves. But get them to safety, keep them from harm. It is better to take a hit to the ego, a shot to your pride, a boot to the head, or risk being included in their scorn, because that’s the model we follow.

D’s grandfather’s favorite biblical lesson? When Christ was about to be taken away, beaten, mocked, denied, tried, crucified… He took the time to heal the ear of a man who had come to arrest him. While his own were prepared to fight for what they believed was right, he “betrayed” their human thinking – and protected them with his words and deeds. Even though he had prayed, to the point beyond exhaustion, that it might happen a different way, he suffered for the sake of others.

D’s grandfather had stood, preached and prayed for equal rights in rural Mississippi before and after “they” shot Dr. King. He’d out grown the coal-town fights boys had to establish the ladder. He revamped church literature on a state-wide and national scale to recognize that the “white-way” was not the “right way” for everyone. And there are churches in the South where, regardless of their demographic where his son can preach and have to “live up” to the reputation, and where anyone with his last name can visit, and be asked if they are family. But that was never a goal. And he never cast a shadow, because he was too focussed on shining a light.

D’s dad heard things that are still being understood. “Don’t join the darkness son, the world has enough of that. Always shine the light.”

A few years later, D’s dad was in college and started dating a graduate student. One night, they saw a movie that triggered a discussion on domestic abuse. She told him a story from her own past.

One night, she was at a party with her new boyfriend when her old one showed up drunk. He was always violent when he was drunk, so she decided to go outside with him. They argued, at one point, he grabbed her hair and was dragging her to his car. She wasn’t going, even if he ripped her hair out. It was over, and she was making sure he knew that. He was slowing down, and she thought it would soon be over.

Then some guy playing hero got involved and beat him up pretty badly. She ended up taking him to the hospital where he got stitches. She felt so bad for him, and he was so sorry, she agreed to “just be friends.” After her relationship with the other guy ran it’s course, they got back together.

It was all going fine until one night when she was trying to leave him again and he grabbed her by the hair and slammed her face into the dashboard of his car. That was when she got a her new face. He fractured an orbital bone & broke her nose.

Fortunately, when he kicked her out of his car some of her friends were nearby & rushed her to the hospital.

Their relationship didn’t last long. It ended on Valentine’s day, before the date started, with thrown flowers & a slammed door. Apparently her friend, and part of the scheduled double-date took one look at him as she met him and said, “What’s hero-boy doing here?”

“Don’t join the darkness son, always shine the light.”

The day after the incident at school. D and C had lunch together, because C and D are friends, E, F, & G join them. A few minutes later, B comes over with his tray. There is a moment that passes between B and D. A nod is all it takes to end it. D scoots over and says, “Here, sit by me.”

“Shine the light my son, and the darkness will never overcome it.”

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