She was six and in the first grade when she met Bobby Brown. Bobby was taller and wider than most other boys in the first grade. He had a head full of straw-like hair that grew every which way but right. He always wore a plaid shirt, blue jeans, and dirty brown high-top farmer boots. Freckles dotted his nose. His eyes were dark and mean. His lips curled into a sneer that was pure evil. He thrived on being the class bully.
Bobby loved to pick on her because her name was Ginger. He chased her almost every day after school yelling, “Run, run, run as fast as you can. I’ll still catch you, you Gingerbread man.” He always caught Ginger and pushed her to the ground.
Ginger would watch the clock on the wall wishing the time would stand still so she wouldn’t have to leave the safety of her classroom. But, the clock always kept ticking, class was always dismissed at 3:00, and Ginger was always chased and pushed by Bobby.
Ginger’s dad didn’t like it when she came home sobbing uncontrollably with tears streaking down dirt-stained cheeks. Ginger didn’t like it either, but what could she do? Dad said he would show her how to defend herself. He would teach Ginger how to box, but only if she never started a fight and only if she used that knowledge to protect herself.
Dad said, “Put up your dukes.” Ginger raised her hands to protect her face. “No, no. Like this,” he said as he showed her how to hold her left hand up to protect her head, and to hold her right hand down to protect her belly. He said, “Now hit my hand.” Ginger punched his hand with what she thought was authority. “No, no. That’s too soft,” Dad said. He showed her how to jab with her left hand, 1, 2, 3 quick, and to follow with a right-hand uppercut. Ginger practiced with her dad for weeks, until the day came when she felt she could stop Bobby Brown from terrorizing her.
It was a cool autumn day. The sun sparkled off the metal frames of the school’s swing set. The leaves looked like red, yellow and gold crystals shimmering on the tree branches. The 3:00 o’clock bell rang and class was dismissed. Everyone stampeded out of the school anxious to ride their bikes or jump into a pile of leaves. Ginger cautiously left her safe haven and quickly started for home, when out jumped Bobby from the tall, thick bushes that lined the school yard.
“Aha! There you are,” Bobby said with that twisted wrinkle in his lip. “I’m hungry for Gingerbread. If you don’t want to be eaten, you’d better start runnin’.”
Ginger spun around, came face to face with Bobby and bravely said, “No! I don’t feel like running today and you better stop chasing me or else.”
“Or else what? You’re a girl. Think you can stop me? Ha. What can a girl do?” sneered Bobby.
“Go away or I’ll show you!” Ginger yelled.
Bobby charged at Ginger. She moved to the left as Bobby grabbed for her sweater. He spun around empty handed. Ginger already put up her dukes by the time Bobby faced her again. He put up his dukes and the historic school fight began.
Ginger jabbed with her left, 1, 2, 3 quick, and backed away. Nobody ever jabbed Bobby Brown before, much less a girl. He came at her again, a little more cautiously. She jabbed and jabbed and jabbed with her left and then the punch! Her right caught Bobby in his stomach. When he doubled over, Ginger gave him an uppercut, lifting him off his feet and sending him backward across the sidewalk. Before she knew it, Ginger was on top of Bobby punching and punching and screaming, “Say Uncle!”
He finally gave up and said, “Uncle.” Ginger stood up and noticed half the school had circled around them cheering. “Way to go, Ginger.” “Alright.” “You showed him.” Bobby stood up, hung his head in shame and slowly shuffled away.
Ginger was so filled with delight that it didn’t matter that her dress rose and showed her underpants during the fight. It didn’t matter that she scraped her knee and bruised her knuckles. It didn’t matter that she was scared out of her wits. What mattered was that she showed everyone that she was brave enough to stand up to a bully.
Ginger never needed to physically fight anyone again. But since the infamous Bobby Brown battle, she grew up knowing she would have the courage to stand up for herself and others who were being mistreated. She grew up knowing that she might be afraid to speak in front of an audience, or might be afraid to interview for her dream job, or might be afraid to stand at the start line of her first marathon thinking she didn’t belong. But she also grew up knowing that she would have the courage to move forward in spite of her fears.