Will break my bones,
But names will never hurt me.
When I’m dead
And in my grave,
You’ll be sorry for what you called me!"
I've always hated this rhyme. It's one of those things that kids say, but if you actually stop to think about it, it's terrible. Sticks and stones may hurt, they may leave bruises. But words and names, they leave scars that may never go away. For some, it's easy to just let these words roll off of them and dismiss what was said as someone else's way of making themselves feel better. For others though, the way others perceive them is important.
When kids are small, most times differences are interesting. Kids are drawn to those who are "different" because they want to know more. By the time these kids make it to middle school, these differences become reasons for ridicule and isolation. Think about the non-athlete who is always being picked last for a team, or the student who always does well in school who is treated badly because they always seem to have the answers. In turn, these kids may feel that they need to find someone whom they can take out their own frustrations on so that they can feel better about themselves. It then becomes a sort of pecking order, and where you are on that ladder makes all the difference.
For five years, fourth through eighth grade, I attended a public school in my home town, or close enough. I experienced the way kids change as they grow older. In fourth grade, my special equipment, my braille books, the braille labels that were put on each student's desk along with their print nametags, these things made me interesting. Two years later, these same types of things set me apart as different, and they became sources of problems between me and the other students. Even things as simple as the way I dressed or wore my hair became reasons for kids to tease me. Even now, I have a really difficult time hearing people tell me that they like my hair or that I look nice because I can't forget being told that in school only to hear the kids laughing about it when they thought I couldn't hear. Some people might try to tell me that much of this kind of thing happened twenty years ago and that it doesn't matter now. The truth is that, no, maybe it shouldn't matter now, but it does. The way others see me, the impression that I leave them with, is incredibly important to me.
As a teenager, the fact that my peers were also struggling, confused, and trying to fit in really never crossed my mind, or if it did, it was just to think that it probably wasn't true. Looking back though, I can see things a bit differently, but it doesn't take away from the things that were said to me. I'm sure there isn't a person reading this who can't come up with at least one time in your life where you were hurt so deeply that even now you still think about it. And sadly enough, I know that there's a chance that I've caused this to happen to someone else. I will never claim to be blameless.
I think though that the Sticks and Stones poem, had it been written today, would be a bit different.
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
And cause a lot of strife.
But words and names are even worse,
And those scars may last for life.