February 14, 2023 by Catherine Stack
The boys learned from their families and teachers that nobody should ridicule others. They knew that bullies glean their power from taking advantage of those they perceive as different or easy targets.
The five friends felt a responsibility to stand up for James against the constant, cruel taunts of schoolyard bullies.
James learns differently than his peers, which makes him stand out. He usually ate lunch alone and didn’t go outside during recess to avoid interaction with others. He spent much of his time in isolation, and the bullies frequently teased James for his differences.
The boys decided enough was enough; they would no longer tolerate any student bullying James. The boys realized that they might not be able to change the bullies’ behavior, but they could change their own. They banded together and made James part of their circle of friends. At lunchtime, the boys invited James over to their table, and he has never left.
The group now spends every day together from homeroom to lunch and then recess. They discuss sports and action heroes. Through spending time together, the five boys learned how much they had much in common with James. They discovered many things about James’ life, including that he was adopted from Columbia. He had experienced tragedy young when he lost his adoptive father in an accident years prior. Their friendship bond with James grew stronger each day.
“It really kind of makes me proud to be their teacher,” said Mallory Howk. The boys are in her fifth-grade class, and she said she couldn’t be more impressed by the kindness and maturity they have displayed.
James’ mother is equally amazed at the many ways the boys’ friendship has positively transformed her son.
“He used to not want to go out to recess. It used to be a struggle, and now he cannot wait to go out and play with those guys,” she said. She also observed how James now loves basketball. She bought him a hoop so he can invite his new friends over to play outside.
The friends wanted to include James in all their after-school activities, such as gaming. When they realized that he did not own any video games, the group got creative. They all chipped in their own money and asked for family contributions to purchase a PlayStation and some games for James.
“It was the first-time friends ever came to play with James. I’ll never forget it,” recalled James’ mother of the moment the boys came over with their gaming gifts.
“These guys are the best friends anybody can ever ask for,” declared James with a big smile across his face.
The Foundation For a Better Life and PassItOn believe that Gus, Tyler, Landon, Jake and Jack are true heroes. Their actions are a great example of the value of kindness. They have shown that a strong person helps, uplifts and protects those in need. It is only the weak who resort to bullying for power. The boys’ message is simple, yet powerful: When you witness an unjust behavior, step in and do your part to stop it. Be part of the solution by being kind, respective and inclusive.
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