The bottom of the pile

It is hard to walk away when you are at the bottom of the pile.

I remember fondly the springs and summers. Hours of play after completing my chores around the house. Of course, as I got older, I took on odd jobs like mowing neighbor’s yards to earn a little money.

In my neighborhood, we had a great group of children. We all would gather to play and race our bikes down suicide hill.

I remember one accident that sent me flying through the handlebars and sliding down the pavement for 20 feet or more. That still hurts just thinking about it. I had sores all over me from that adventure.

There were no cell phones — so the kids were kept on what I call time leashes. When we left the house, we were expected to come back by a certain time, usually meal time.

Of course, if any of us got into mischief, the news traveled faster than us and the punishment was waiting for us when we got home. In my case, a few choice words from Mom followed by “You just wait ‘til your father gets home.”

Those waits coupled with the sound of my dad pulling his belt out of his pants were always worse than the whipping themselves.

One thing about it, my father never punished me undeservingly, and while I can’t remember a single whipping, I sure learned the life lessons that accompanied them.

My friends and I had about a two to three-mile radius in which we played that encompassed, fields, woods, several neighborhoods and some stores. We had a Colonial Grocery Store, a Krystal, a gas station, dry cleaners and a Gulf Service Station within our travel patterns.

We would get in our share of disagreements with each other. That would lead usually to some hurt feelings and some rolling around on the ground ‘til someone would say “Uncle.” We always seemed to come through it. There really were no children who caused trouble in my age bracket. A few older ones sometimes got into mischief, but we always managed to keep out of trouble.

Do not get me wrong, there were bullies. We were just blessed not to have them on our street, at least for very long. I remember when I was about seven there were two brothers who took great pleasure in picking fights with me. At least, it seemed that way at the time.

A boy my age named Chris Sands moved in. His parents had just divorced, and at that time, it was not as usual, as it is now. I’ll never forget one meeting with those brothers that had me at the bottom of a wrestling match that I just could not win. Chris was the new guy in the neighborhood and saw that I was being unfairly targeted for this fight and stepped in to pull the other boys off me. From that moment on, he was my friend — that is until he later moved away, and I lost track of him.

While time has erased many of the memories of the time we spent together hanging out as kids, that one action by the new boy on the block sticks in my mind. He saw something that was not right, and he did something about it. Not knowing the social lay of the land and the dynamics of the neighborhood hierarchy, he stuck his neck out for me. That is bravery.

Now I’m not advocating fighting as a way to resolve issues for children or adults. I was taught that it takes much more courage to walk away than to actually fight. But when they jump on you, there are just a few hurdles you have to get over before you can walk away.

I learned a valuable lesson from Chris that day. I have always tried to stick up for others, but sadly, especially since starting to serve in local politics, I have found there are few willing to stick up for you as the bullies come out to tear you down, especially during an election.

Folks often do not like to stick their neck out to help other people, but when someone does, it makes our community a better place. Even during an election, it is better to walk away and not engage in the lowering of the standards of decency often practiced by other candidates and their backers.

We are truly blessed with people who work every day to help those who face many kinds of battles.