The Neighborhood Kids

When we were growing up, we lived in a neighborhood on the edge of the city. The community was essentially a giant rectangle with the houses and cars on the two long edges and the community and maintenance facilities at the two short ends. In the middle, there was a park with walking paths, hilly lawns, a playground, tennis courts and a pool. It was a very safe place and the kids were allowed to run free through the neighborhood.

The kids were pretty open to each other. There were cliques, sure, but they mostly reflected individual preferences for each other and not groupings by popularity or clothing. There was definitely groupings by age divisions. The older kids, for example, couldn't be bothered much to interact with the younger kids.

It was common in the summer evenings for mass Hide-and-Go-Seek games to be held. These games would span the an area of about an acre, had defined boundaries and specific areas where you weren't allowed to go. The kids knew which families were fine with their yards being used as part of the neighborhood kid areas and which families wanted their yards to be off-limits. The base was usually a street light that was close to the center of the defined space. Those games would last over an hour and had as many as 25 kids running around.

The neighborhood kids all knew each other. We knew who we could trust and which homes we had permission to visit regularly. The neighborhood kids all knew my sister and, for the most part, they looked out for her.

I don't remember the kids teasing or picking on Lyn much at all. I do remember that Lyn would get permission to go to the playground on her own pretty frequently. She liked to swing. Even if I didn't want to go too, she would usually encounter someone she knew and have a good time.

There was one occasion, however, that she came home in tears from the playground. There was a new boy who was there. He had started picking on her and calling her names when he realized she was different. When she got up to leave, he stuffed a grasshopper down the back of her shirt and squashed it.

We were instantly angry and headed out to find the boy. When we got to the playground, there were several kids milling about the equipment. They all turned to us as we approached. Two of the bigger boys approached. We demanded to know who killed the grasshopper on Lyn's back. We were ready for a fight and were looking for it.

The neighborhood kids then told us who the new boy was, confirmed what he had done and confirmed that he had gone home. He was home after having received a beating by some of the neighborhood kids. They didn't want him to get away with hurting Lyn. They didn't want him to think it was OK to pick on her. They wanted to let him know that Lyn had more than her family looking out for her. By the time we got there, the fight was over and the kid was out of sight.

The boy never bothered Lyn again. He actively avoided her if he spotted her. Lyn didn't go to the playground by herself for a while. She didn't want to see the boy or get picked on. Eventually, she relaxed and was able to enjoy the swings on her own again. As for us, we felt frustration over not being able to teach the boy a lesson ourselves. However, I was also proud of the neighborhood kids for looking out for Lyn that day.

Thanks, guys.


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