The Businesswomen’s Networking Group invited Eileen Kushner and I to attend their monthly meeting so we could discuss our book Smart on the Inside – A True Story About Succeeding in Spite of Learning Disabilities. Eileen began her speech by telling everyone that she was the proud owner of three McDonald’s restaurants. Kushner explained that when was young she never imagined that she would be a successful businesswoman. As she choked back the tears, Eileen told the group how she was constantly bullied when she was in school. A teacher told her parents that she would never amount to anything. Quite a few of the women in the audience had tears in their own eyes as they listened.
At the end of the table one well-groomed and attractive lady was actually sobbing. She stood up, wiped her eyes with a napkin, and asked if she could share her story.
“My mother weighed 400 pounds and as you can see I weigh about half that much. When I was young my classmates always called me names because they thought I was fat. They laughed at me because of my size. One way that I coped was that I used my sense of humor to cover the fact that their mean comments were truly bothering me. I may have appeared to be laughing on the outside but I really was crying on the inside because of their cruelty,” she took a deep breath and wiped her face again.
“Now that I’m an adult, I use my weight as an advantage. I make my living as a performer and my large size is an asset for the characters that I play. In fact, I’m paid to perform as a clown-like character. Now I really want people to laugh at me. Their laughter proves that I’m a talented comedian and performer. Through the years I’ve learned to accept my body just as you, Eileen, accept your learning disability. My appearance and your learning differences are just a small part of who we are and the experiences we had as children have made us stronger.”
Eileen rushed across the room to give the woman a huge hug and then she finished giving her speech. Afterwards we had a discussion about strategies that children can use if they are bullied. These strategies include:
- Share your concerns with your parents
- Avoid situations that involve bullies (recess, lunch, bus)
- Find a buddy
- Ignore the bully and walk away
- Act brave and use assertive body language
- Stand up for yourself
- Tell a teacher or Social Worker
- Use a sense of humor
- Participate in a Social Skills group to role-play techniques to handle bullying
- Improve self-confidence
Before she left, the woman who works as a clown came over to speak with Eileen.
“Your story really moved me and caused me to unleash a lot of emotions. We have so much in common. Both of us have succeeded in spite of our differences.”