It's about this time every year that I think of him. The changing hues of autumn brings the memory up to my consciousness. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The crisp air fills my lungs and my attention gets diverted to all the magic of fall around me. This time of year marks the anniversary. It's 46 years this fall and so I honor a sweet, tender-hearted boy who impacted my life as no other has.
It's the anniversary of two 12-year olds. Two 12-year olds - each of who finds a different way to escape the torment and humiliation of bullying. I chose to walk the two miles home from school everyday instead of getting on the afternoon school bus. A few weeks later, Danny made a different choice.
I have no recollection of Danny and I ever conversing. He wasn't even a classmate. Usually, I would be on the bus first and through the dirty, smudged windows my eyes would follow him as he trudged his way carrying his heavy load of books onto the bus. Selfishly, I would think, "Oh, good, I'm glad Danny is here today". That meant the brutality would be shared. Danny would sit on the opposite side of the bus isle with his head down, as did I. It was self-preservation not to have eye contact with anyone. But, I do remember the one time our eyes and souls met. It's a moment in time etched on the tablet of my heart. For a brief moment, with our eyes locked, each of us in unspoken anguish, pleaded with each other for help. But, we were helpless. So, we turned our eyes away and endured.
From the time I began walking home from school that fall, I never saw Danny again. I never even thought much about him. I was just glad the torture for me on the afternoon bus was over. Now, I only had to contend with the morning bus ride. A few weeks later, I came into school and found out twelve-year old Danny committed suicide. I was horrified and scared. In my own 12-year old mind, I was a coward - I never fought back; I left Danny alone to take the brunt of our peer's anger and sadistic pleasures when I started walking home; I was a coward when the school was a buzz with gossip about why Danny would do such a thing - I still didn't speak up; and I was scared that I may do the same thing. I grieved in silence and anguish for a very long time and became more and more introverted by my secret, guilt, selfishness, and shame.
Secrets are to torment, what truth is to freedom. Truth will set you free, secrets will torment you. I was finally set free from the agony of the secret about 30 years later. Joe and I were high school youth pastors. Jesus cradled me with courage as I told my concealed story to our teens. As the secret was expelled from my lips, Jesus began His healing process. The teens gathered compassionately around me and prayed while I dissolved in tears. I knew that I knew I was forgiven and that God had just used our story as a powerful life-lesson to our teens. There were cleansing tears and sobs all around the room. Hopefully, life changing for some - whether they be abuser or victim. For all those years, I envied Danny because he was free. On that fall Sunday morning with our youth group, I was finally free. And I could feel that soul-bond with Danny once again. This time as victors rather than victims.
Danny and I are both champions of anti-bullying. May God, once again, use our story...
Because of Him and Unto Him,
This post is linked up to Tell Me A Story