I would like to tell you a great story coming out of Houston. Jordon, an eight-year-old
boy was being bullied by an eleven-year old boy by the name Tamarion at school. The
bullying was a constant thing. When Jordon’s father, Aubrey Fontenot, discussed the
problem with his son’s teachers, he was assured that something would be done. Yet, as with
most things these days, little progress was made, and Jordon continued to be harassed by
Tamarion.
Finally, Aubrey was able to meet and speak with Tamarion’s mother. He learned that
the family had fallen on hard times, and that they were experiencing homelessness. Aubrey
asked Tamarion’s mother if he could speak with her son. As she approved, Aubrey sat
down with Tamarion. He found out that Tamarion was envious of his son. It turned out
that his son’s clean clothing was the source of his jealousy. Apparently, the other children
made fun of him saying that his shoes were cheap and his clothes, dirty.
Aubrey empathized with Tamarion, and understood the difficult situation placed upon
Tamarion, and decided not to scold the boy. Instead, Aubrey spoke with, and spent time
with him. Aubrey assured Tamarion that, “he’s a great person, and this doesn’t make him
bad.” He also told him that, “no matter what’s going on, you have to walk around with your
head up and chest up. This world is tough. You can’t let what people say or do bring your
self-confidence down.” Then, Aubrey then took Tamarion on a shopping spree, to buy him
a new pair of shoes and some clothes.
The result of Aubrey’s effort is that the two boys are now great friends. Although people
may criticize that a whole new wardrobe would help to soften things up, I do not think that
this was the main reason behind better relations. What Tamarion needed most was
understanding. Not being accepted by his peers is a painful experience for anyone, let alone
someone who is still eleven. Tamarion’s bullying cannot be condoned, but it is not always
helpful to only scold someone. It could very be that Tamarion had no idea how to deal with
his predicament. No one helped. Aubrey’s approach was not to reprimand the boy, but to
listen to him, empathize with his predicament, and offer some good advice. Giving
Tamarion a break was all he needed.
Aubrey’s approach is a textbook example of what I imagine the Buddha often tried to do.
The Buddha’s approach was always non-confrontational. He would begin by listening
intently to someone with an issue. This was not just because he wanted to understand the
situation so that he could offer a solution, but because oftentimes, just lending someone
your ear can become a solution in itself. Having someone, even just one person, who
understands your position is often the only medicine that can cure a certain problem. As
Jordon’s father had done, the Buddha took action by focusing on the cause of the problem,
and then offering some direction. In the case of Tamarion, Jordan’s father explained in
earnest that Tamarion was not a bad person, and that it was the people who teased him that
were wrong. He finished by advising him to be proud of who he was, and not let others
bother him. This was all that was needed.
(Eisei Ikenaga)