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How very easy in this world it is to be strong...
''how very easy it is in this world to be strong.'
Anton Chekhov ended the book, the Ninny, with these words. I never quite understood its meaning until today, December fifth.
It was cold. I noticed that as I tugged angrily at my poster board (a stupid Language Arts project that annoyed me greatly). The cast lists for Bye, Bye Birdie were up, announcing the leads and their understudies. Helen and Missy stood close, probably talking about me or that Helen didn't get a main part. They weren't too happy with me, saying how I was trying to be a 'bad a**' and I was inconsiderate. I shrugged it off as was my habit. My fingers clenched. Everyone chattered around me but I took no part. I stayed aloof to the words that swirled around me. The yellow school bus turned around the bend and pulled up next to us. Helen and Missy became animated.
'Hurry up! Hurry up! Don't let the kid get on the bus!' snapped Helen, pushing everyone into the bus. I walked slower, half to annoy Helen and half to help the kid. I saw him, walking, and someone shouted to get on. Stepping onto the bus, I looked outside the window and saw the kid, Seth, drop all his books and backpack. Everyone, again, began that constant shout. I sat down gradually. The bus driver waited for the kid. Seth ran up and everyone began to scream at him.
'Shut the f*** up! I don't feel good!' Seth hollered back at everyone, but it was one against everyone but me. Everyone laughed at him. Laughed; at his anger, his hurt. I think I felt bad for him because I remember when no one talked to me and I empathized. It made me feel sick to my stomach to see someone brought down so low.
A murmur grew to a dull roar. I leaned back against my seat, the sun casting gleams over my body. Bumps sent me up and down. A disruption developed at the front of the bus. J.P., an annoying kid who resembled a short, spiky, meatball, had thrown something at Seth and was poking him continuously. The kid stood up irritably.
'Stop it! F***ing stop it! What the hell? F***ing stop it!' Seth screamed at J.P. The bus driver (let us call him Bart) pulled over. Bart stood up and towered over Seth.
'No cussin' on my bus. Ya go sit up there and I don't wanna hear ya cuss ever again on my bus. If ya do, I'm gunna bring ya back to school, ya hear?' he pointed to the front of the bus. Seth walked to the front shamefully. Great, add shame to the mixture of hurt and anger. I flipped. Standing up, I strutted to J.P. and shoved him back into his seat.
'Sit down.' I whispered venomously. Everything was ominously quiet, 'Hey, everybody, let's call J.P. names and see how he likes it. Hey, everybody, what can we call J.P.? Hmm? Mother F***er? Hmm? You are in time-out and it's not funny, so wipe that stupid smirk off your face and stop annoying him. Next time it happens, I'll make sure its you who gets yelled at and if you aren't the one who gets yelled at, I'll personally make you stand up and tell the bus driver what you did. Got that?'
His response was a leer.
'You think this is funny?' I growled. He started to defend himself, 'No, shut up and sit down. You don't deserve to speak.' Inside my head, I said, You find pleasure in making fun of a kid with problems. Does it make you feel stronger? Taller?
Again, I moved up a few rows and sat behind Seth.
'Hey, Seth, don't they make you mad?'
'If you show them that you are mad, they win. If you cuss them out, they win. You don't want them to win. You have to pretend it doesn't bother you and they'll stop,' I paused, collecting my thoughts, 'They just want to get you mad and if you fight them, they win. You don't want them to win, do you?'
Seth shook his head, his eyes closed. I was silent, studying him. Tears rolled down from his closed eyes, coursing down his cheeks, yet he was still in his ire and didn't tell me what was amiss, didn't defend himself. He just sat there, tears falling. It made me want to cry.
So, as the boy left the bus, it made me think of the Ninny. He had done what Yulia had done, sat in silence as she was accused. He didn't defend himself, yet he was tragic and made tears wet my own eyes. I felt those same tears, dripping down my cheeks, kissing them like rain. But Anton Chekhov missed something in his quote. It is easy to be strong, but it is hard to remain courageous in silence and let tears come.