Harley Farley was used to people pointing at him. After all, he was a zombie, and people were curious about him. Only today, on the school playground, a little boy from another class was pointing and laughing at him.
“You’re a smelly zombie,” he told Harley. Then he laughed.
But Harley wasn’t a smelly zombie. He took a shower every single day, and he used shampoo and conditioner that smelled like strawberries.
“Leave him alone,” shouted his friend Daniel.
But the boy pointed at him again. “Smelly zombie,” he said.
“Just ignore him, Harley,” his best friend Eddie said.
“Yeah,” said Andrew, tossing him a ball. “He’ll go away.”
But he didn’t go away. Over the next few days, the little boy found Harley and told him mean things. This broke Harley’s heart.
That evening, Harley told Mom and Dad everything that was going on. His parents hugged him tightly.
“It’s very normal to be sad, Harley,” his mom said. “Sometimes kids make fun of other kids when they don’t feel very happy about something. Sometimes, they just bully others because they don’t quite know what else to do,” she said. “Your dad and I will go to your school and let the grown-ups there know what is happening, okay?”
“But for now,” his dad added, “stay close to the friends who make you feel good about yourself and try to ignore the boy. His words can only hurt you if you let them.”
The next day at recess, Harley played ball with his friends. The boy came around yelling mean things, but Harley kept smiling and playing as if the boy wasn’t even there.
The boy tried again, shouting louder, but Harley acted like he didn’t hear him. The boy went away.
His dad’s advice worked, but Harley still felt sad. It wasn’t easy ignoring the mean things the boy was saying to him. He explained this to his parents.
Then, his parents had a great idea. “Harley,” his mom said, “how would you like to try an activity that will teach you confidence? You’ll meet new friends, and you’ll get some exercise for your mind and body.”
Harley agreed. His parents took him to a karate class. Harley loved it. Karate made him feel better about himself, and feeling good about himself made him strong.
Donna Muñoz is a proud El Paso mother of five, assistant professor of English at El Paso Community College and author of Harley Farley and other books. Information: harleyfarleyzombiebooks.me.
Not every bully situation is as easy to fix as Harley’s, but here are some important things to remember:
• Always talk to your parents or guardian and let them know what’s going on.
• Always stay with friends, in groups or close to a grown-up if you are getting bullied.
• Always tell a grown-up at school if you or someone else is getting picked on or hurt in any way. Telling a grown-up at school is NOT tattling, it’s helping you and others stay safe.
• Do something you love. Harley chose karate, but you can do anything that makes you feel good about yourself, like reading books, drawing pictures or riding your bike. Find what makes you feel happy and strong.
Learn more about bullying prevention at stopbullying.gov/prevention. Ask a grown up to visit the website with you.