Finding My Way: A Long View of Bullying
FINDING MY WAY

Finding My Way: A Long View of Bullying

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Children are adorable, aren’t they?

As infants they coo and burble.

Then they’re toddlers, with their first steps, first words, and first crayons on the walls.

Then it’s kindergarten, when parents must accept no longer being the only influence on their little one.

We still have some control, of course. Just not full control.

As our children grow up, most receive steady guidance from parents, teachers, clergy, supportive adult friends, etc.

But children are also guided by other children, who are likely to be as immature as they are.

Some will have a positive influence. But some can be monsters.

I’m told that bullying among children is still a thing. This is despite the ever-increasing awareness of adults that bullying not only hurts a child in the moment, but for the decades that come afterwards.

The best guesses and studies tell us that about 20-25% of children are bullied in school, and that the bullying peaks around sixth grade.

That’s how it was with me. My sixth-grade year was a mess.

It got pretty bad, actually. I didn’t get beat up or anything, but getting beaten up may be the least damaging part of being bullied. At least you have something you can show the grownups.

Towards the end of sixth grade I finally sort of maybe spoke up a little bit. Fortunately, some adults listened. There was action behind the scenes, and a couple of intensely uncomfortable forced face-to-face apologies.

The bullying stopped. Instead, I was simply ignored and left alone. That was way better, by the way.

It’s funny how things affect you in the long run. In junior high I discovered I had a snappy and sarcastic sense of humor — and when employed disruptively in the middle of class I could make the other kids laugh. Ultimately, this led to my being moved out of honors classes and into the ones for the at-risk kids. The adults told me I needed to knock it off. But for the first time in my life I was sort of popular in a desperate way with the kids at school. You remember what it was like — what would you have chosen?

Years later I learned that I barely made it into high school.

In the end, I turned out okay — maybe even better than okay. I went to college, I utterly lucked out on the marriage front, following which I worked for four decades in broadcasting. I was on the small screen nearly every day long before the time when any clown with a cell phone could broadcast live while blowing bubbles out his nose.

I have a beautiful large family. I’ve written four books, a bunch of columns, and I’ve been able to do some good in the world.

To my knowledge, I’ve never bullied anyone.

So why am I writing this? I promise it is not for self-affirmation on social media. I’m not looking for e-friends to tell me how wonderful I am. I guess I’m writing this for two reasons. One is altruistic, and one is pretty selfish.

I’ll do the selfish one first, since it will be the most fun.

To those of you in the sixth grade of Marquez Elementary School who made my life miserable — phfffft. You messed me up for a few years, but I beat you. And now I’m old enough to know that some of you may have come from messed up homes yourselves, and that turning your anger on a bookish kid may have made you feel better.

I’m not proud of how I acted in the years that immediately followed the bullying, but I am proud of the fact that I never turned on anyone else the way you did on me.

But I confess that 55 years later there’s still a small corner in me that has never successfully snuffed out that tiny final dying spark of anger. So, to all of you — just…phffft.

And to the quarter of you reading this who were bullied yourself as a child, may you learn, as I have, that while you don’t get to choose your pain, in time you can manage it. Good luck, my friend.

Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.

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The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

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