300 Words by Charlotte Chere Graham
All the news about school bullying got me to thinking about Mary. She sat behind me in second grade, and there was something about Mary that’s stayed with me for sixty years.
Back then you were on your own when it came to being bullied. No day in court to face your oppressors. No movie or book deal or Oprah interview as reward for abuse taken and overcome. You see, my classmates didn’t like Mary. “You have dirty blood, Mary. Stay away from us Dirty Blood.”
Mary was the picture of neglect. Every day she wore the same dress – stained and rumpled. Shoes bound to her feet with rubber bands. Even in the cold of January, Mary had no coat. No mother ever lovingly ran a brush through Mary’s ratted, drab hair. Instead, a pair of blunt scissors chopped into her matted and tangled curls to chase out the lice. At seven years old, Mary already had the haggard look of someone coming to the end of her days. Just living was an act of courage.
I admired Mary and envied her strength. She never complained about life at home or the abuse and shunning she took at school. Mary was as gentle and kind as she was neglected and bullied. When “Dirty Blood” was hurled at her, Mary silently stood and waited for her tormentors to stop.
I’m ashamed to say the ugliness hurled at Mary sometimes got to me, and I would cry and beg not to go to school because it was too hard to watch. But Mary was made of stronger stuff. She never missed a day of school.
Remembering Mary now, I can only think she was held close by the words of Psalm 121: My help comes from the Lord…