When I was 12-years-old my family moved from a suburb of Detroit to a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. I was in the seventh grade. I had a haircut that, in my mind, resembled Cameron Diaz’s in There’s Something About Mary (my inspiration came from the movie poster; I wasn’t allowed to watch the movie). In retrospect, my ‘do was probably more akin to Nick Carter’s from the Backstreet Boys.
I had a Beanie Baby collection, was built like a string bean, and my favorite outfit was a pair of navy blue, crushed velvet overalls from GAP Kids. Lunchtime was rough. Day after day I loaded a cafeteria tray up with mystery meat and chocolate milk, ate as quickly as I could, and then took refuge in the stalls of the girl’s bathroom. I would sit on the toilet, feet pressed against the door, until the bell rang, signaling that it was safe to emerge and return to class.
This went on for weeks until, one day, a gaggle of girls caught on to my pattern. The clan followed me into the bathroom and hurled empty juice boxes over the stall as they giggled. I can’t remember how long this went on for. It could have been just a couple of days, but it felt like eons. The image of bright-yellow, drained Mott’s apple juice cartons falling from the sky will be forever burned into my memory.
This story ends well, promise.
One day, I decided to address the bullies. I’ll never forget the look of shock on their faces when I swung the stall door open. The girls diminished from snickering and confident oppressors and transformed into sheepish 12-year-olds. I ended up becoming friends with one of them. I can’t remember her name but I do remember going over to her house, eating apple slices coated in lemon juice, downloading rap songs off Napster, and sneakily watching Wild Things while her parents were out for dinner. That shower scene with Kevin Bacon will also, unfortunately, be forever burned into my memory.
I have zero tolerance for bullies. It’s been 20 years since those bathroom stall days, but a passing glimpse at the Mott’s logo is enough to remind me of how it feels to be at the receiving end of adolescence viciousness.
I received a press release today from Nextdoor that reminded me of this chapter of my life. It also gave me all the feels. The neighborhood-watch app has selected 10 kids from across the country to sponsor in what they’re calling “10 Sweetest Lemonade Stands.” These kids are setting up lemonade stands with proceeds benefiting a cause of their choice, and Nextdoor is matching their charity donation. One of these kids is a sixth-grader from Fort Worth named Gavin. According to the release, in the first grade Gavin was targeted by bullies—one of his classmates told him to kill himself. The young boy became depressed and struggled with trusting the kids around him. His parents enrolled him in Taekwondo classes to help him regain his self-confidence. It worked.
Gavin is raising money, and awareness, at his lemonade stand this Saturday. Proceeds will go toward a Korean Tiger Martial Arts scholarship that will teach another kiddo or two how to gain confidence through Taekwondo classes. The stand is located at the corner of Shiver Rd. and Foxwood Dr. in Fort Worth and will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Talk about taking lemons and turning them into something sweet. Now, this a juice I can get behind.