bullying Posts

The Best Habit to Cultivate When Joy Is Eluding You by Dandi Daley Mackall

Tyndale Kids

Katy wore her purple jersey proudly, thrilled to be part of the Dragons. The thump, thump, thump of a dozen practice balls echoed in the gym.

I watched my daughter smile at every player on the basketball court, even those on the opposing team, the Bears.

“Go, Ka—Dragons!” I shouted from the bleachers. Katy had coached her dad and me not to cheer, “Go, Katy!” Only, “Go, Dragons!”

She jogged out of sight. When she returned, she was pushing a wheelchair with a man I judged to be about forty, twice Katy’s age. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt, and his smile matched Katy’s.

I didn’t think he was on either team, but I wasn’t sure.

A whistle blew, and athletes were introduced as they ran to center court to the cheers of the crowd. Brian skipped onto the court, hands clasped above his head as if he was already the champ. Leslie pranced out, looking paler than the snow we all drove through to get here.

And Craig. Too shy, or frightened, to join his team on the court, he paced just out of bounds until Katy ran over and took his hand, leading him out as far as he’d allow.

Unable to help himself, my husband yelled, “Go, Katy!” She shook her head at him. Someone shouted, “Play ball!”

Katy didn’t come off the bench until third quarter. Even then, she couldn’t get her hands on the ball because the Dragons’ two best players were ball hogs.

Poor Katy ran up and down the court, arms outstretched, pleading for the ball. The boys paid no attention.

But it was obvious that one boy on the Bears team couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Each time they passed on the court, he stopped and smiled, mesmerized.

Someone passed him the ball. The kid’s smile turned back to Katy. He handed that ball to her.

Confused, Katy glanced up at us and shrugged. She returned the Bear’s grin, then shot the ball. Nothin’ but net!

It was the only shot she made all year. The gym erupted in shouts of joy. Even the Bears and their parents cheered.

The Dragons trailed by one. Katy had the ball with two minutes left in the game. Then a wonderful thing happened. Katy walked toward Craig, who still paced the out-of-bounds lane.

The gym hushed as Katy stepped out of bounds and took Craig’s hand.

The clock ran out, but nobody moved. Craig tried to squirm away, but Katy held on until he stepped across the line. She put the ball in his hands, and his arms sprang as if on coils. He missed the backboard. But the bleachers emptied, with both sides cheering their hearts out.

Every person in that gym experienced true joy, shared joy.

And I prayed that God would show me how to share joy in other areas, instead of competing for only one joy—mine.

That evening in the gym, joy poured out of me abundantly, spontaneously. But the truth is that joy doesn’t always come so easily.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that parenting a child with special needs brought with it more moments of straightforward joy. Or perhaps that my joy looked more like other people’s joy.

I knew a couple of weeks after Katy’s birth that she wasn’t developing the way other babies did.

By age two, she required speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

When she was three, she lost 40 percent of her hearing overnight and was diagnosed with nephritis and Alport Syndrome, a nasty neurological disorder.

I don’t recall feeling joyful as other moms chatted about their precocious toddlers.

I do remember my daughter, big grin and wide eyes, rushing home after kindergarten one day and shouting, “Guess what! Allyson can tie her own shoelaces her own self!”

She was ecstatic, but my first thought was: And you can’t.

Why is it easier to share the sorrows of others than it is to share their joy?

I’ve always marveled at Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and mother of John the Baptist.

When Elizabeth received a visit from Mary, the future mother of the Messiah, wouldn’t Elizabeth’s natural response have been, Why not me? I’m from the priestly line of Aaron. I’m married. Zachariah is a priest and would make the perfect father. God considered me righteous. Yet my son will not consider himself worthy to tie the sandal straps of your Son? Jesus must increase while John decreases?

Instead: “Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.’” (Luke 1:42-44, NLT)

Elizabeth was overjoyed because she shared Mary’s joy.

And it’s not an accident that Katy is one of the happiest people I’ve met.

She gets more than her share of joy . . . because she, too, shares other people’s joys.

I am still learning from Katy.

Perhaps we all can.

Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. Philippians 2:18

Dandi Daley Mackall is an award-winning author of nearly 500 books for all ages. She is winner of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, ECPA Children’s Book of the Year 2015, the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame, the Edgar Award, ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Mom’s Choice Awards, and others. She was a missionary behind the Iron Curtain (the basis for Eva Underground). Her new book, Larger-Than-Life Lara, is a unique and multilayered story for young readers, with equal parts humor and angst. The central character, Laney, communicates the art of storytelling as it happens while weaving an unforgettable tale of the new girl, whose Christlike kindness and forgiveness transform the entire class…until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader. This is a powerful and emotional story.

This piece was originally written as a guest post for Ann Voskamp’s blog. Ann is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wonder of the Greatest Gift, The Greatest Gift, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  





Aggressive Kindness by Dandi Daley Mackall


I’ve never met anyone who claims to be a bully. I’ve never met a parent who proudly proclaimed, “Yes, Junior is a bully.” Yet according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 1 out of 4 students reported being bullied during the 2015 school year, and it’s estimated that 64% of the victims of bullying didn’t report it. Something doesn’t add up.

Nearly everyone has seen, or heard, bullying. But how many try to stop it or to help the victim of bullying?

Physical bullying is easy to spot, though not so easy to stop. Verbal bullying may not seem like such a big deal . . . unless you or your child is the target. Looks, body type, race, and disabilities are the main subjects of verbal abuse. And with cyberbullying, no one is exempt from the often anonymous meanness.

swingsWhen our special-needs daughter, Katy, started school, she brought her joy and sunshine with her, along with a major hearing loss, speech and articulation problems, and chronic illness. School wasn’t easy for her, but she arrived home with a big smile every day . . . until she didn’t. Tears streaming down her face, Katy ran to her room and hid under the covers until her dad and I got her calmed down enough to tell us what happened. A boy in her class had mimicked her and made fun of the way she talked. I knew I’d have a word with her teacher eventually. But for now, we hugged and held our daughter and told her if it happened again, she should think of all the great things we always say about her. “And don’t forget to listen to Jesus, who says you’re his much-loved child, a miracle, a gift.” Katy, still sobbing, said, “I tried! But Michael was right there in front of my face, and you guys and Jesus were whispering in the back of my head. So I couldn’t hardly hear you!” How we wished someone had stood up for Katy! Most of her classmates were good kids, Christian kids. But not one said or did a thing to help. They weren’t bullies, but is that enough? And it’s not just a school problem. Most of us grown-ups have seen bullying or mean teasing or name-calling. How often do we do anything about it?

There are no easy solutions to bullying. But what if we all took the offensive and became aggressively kind? That’s what happens in Larger-Than-Life Lara. Inlara the middle of the night, I was awakened by a fictional tough kid, Laney, who said: “This isn’t about me. This story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up.” I got out of bed, stumbled to my office, and wrote what became Chapter One. Every morning I sat at my computer, eager to discover this story. As bullies wormed their way into the book, I panicked because as hard as I’d tried, I’d never landed on the best way to beat a bully. But Larger-Than-Life Lara did, in a way. Lara is a very large fourth-grader, the new kid in Laney’s classroom. But Lara’s weight isn’t the most notable thing about her. She has a smile that’s so real and deep that it makes Laney, our narrator, crazy because she’s never smiled like that. Lara is kind. When bullying threatens her, hurts her, she forgives. She’s real, and she suffers. But she returns kindness for meanness, and her aggressive kindness transforms the entire class.

That’s what Katy did too, eventually. The rest of the school year, whatever mean things Michael said to her, Katy kept her smile and said, “Thank you, Michael.” Eventually, he gave up. Things weren’t always “happily ever after.” There were other bullies, other “teasers.” But Katy’s aggressive kindness proved to be a powerful weapon.

What if every Christian would be aggressively kind, shining light into darkness, standing up for victims of gossip and bullying? Over 200 years ago, Edmund Burke wrote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Around 2,000 years ago, Paul wrote: “. . . Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:14, NLT).

Larger-Than-Life Lara is available now. Head to Tyndale.com to purchase your copy today!

dandiDandi Daley Mackall is the award-winning author of over 450 books for children and adults. She visits countless schools, conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the United States, and presents keynote addresses at conferences and young author events. She is also a frequent guest on radio talk shows and has made dozens of appearances on TV. She has won several awards for her writing, including the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, the Edgar Award, and a two-time Mom’s Choice Award winner.

Dandi writes from rural Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Joe, their three children, and their horses, dogs, and cats. Visit her at her website, dandibooks.com.