It’s funny what our memories carry along through the years. I remember a discussion I had with a few people from Lebo, Kansas, shortly before I closed my Facebook account. In that discussion, one of them said that Lebo was the warmest, friendliest town in America.
That’s not how I remember it.
I was the smallest kid in my class. Even the smallest girl was bigger than me. When we started the Freshman year of HS (9th grade), I was 5’2″ tall and weighed in at around 98 pounds. While mine is only one point of view, and to play “Devil’s Advocate” it is entirely possible that Lebo is the warmest, friendliest town in America, here is what I remember.
I remember that not one full week went by between 1st Grade and 10th without me being beat up by one of the bullies in school, and there were several. One of those bullies eventually became the town’s mayor.
I don’t remember any of those bullies ever getting in trouble for starting a fight with me – but I remember getting in trouble many times for defending myself. I also remember choosing to join the US Army because it gave me a contract that guaranteed me Special Forces training after I completed Basic and my MOS training. Why? Because I wasn’t going to ever let another bully put me on the ground.
I remember that not one girl who grew up in Lebo would go out on a date with me – ever. A few indicated privately that they thought I was a special guy, but peer pressure wouldn’t let them anywhere near me in public.
I remember a town where it was a literal truth that everyone in town belonged to one of the two churches – and the only real Christians in the whole town were Anna Ruth Williamson (the teen/young adults group leader for the Methodist church when I was still there) and Jack Allegre. Yes, that means I wasn’t a real Christian, too. I wanted to believe, but I couldn’t. “Faith” is hard to find in a heart filled with fear, loneliness, and hate. I know, because I can’t begin to count the number of hours I spent on my knees looking for it.
I remember a town where the two kindest, gentlest members of my class were both afraid to be who they really were – because they were both homosexual.
I remember a town that was rocked by scandal the year a high school student (about 3 years older than me, I think) bought a motorcycle. It wasn’t even a Harley-Davidson, but it might as well have been hand made by Satan himself the way Lebo reacted.
I remember the last day of Sophomore year, when it was obvious that my parents were divorcing and I was going to be moving to Emporia after 10 years in Lebo. Not one member of my class was sorry to see me leave – or at least that was how it looked through my eyes. On that same day, when David Fry started a fight with me during lunch, I can’t seem to remember him getting in any trouble at all. I got suspended from school for throwing one punch in self-defense.