Last night, I took my son to a youth activity for church (pool party for the young men and young women, aged 12-18). He doesn't have many friends in this group, and his very best friend is moving overseas in a couple of weeks, so I worry about him sometimes. Especially since there is one group of boys (most of the 14-year-olds) within this larger youth group who have had issues with my son since he turned 12. They've given him unfavorable "nicknames," made rude comments, mocked him in games and treated him as if he were invisible... everything they can get away with and still be subtle enough that the leaders don't catch on to the bullying.
When we arrived at the pool party, my son walked into the back yard, where these 14-year-old boys were all congregated around the trampoline. As he approached, all but one of them turned their backs and walked away. The one who stayed was D (no names - I'm not here to call the boys to a public accounting for their behavior), one of my son's only good friends in the youth group.
"D!" my son called, walking over to give his pal a high five. D stepped back, avoiding my son's outstretched hand, and stood for a moment, looking back and forth between my son and the Other Boys. He mumbled something that I couldn't hear (I was watching this all from a distance), and my son put his hand down. "I understand," he said. Then he turned to D's younger brother, who turned 12 last week, and who was standing alone and uncertain in the middle of the yard. "Come on, let's go swim!"
As they walked away, D called after him, "it's nothing personal! I just have to distance myself from the younger boys for a while!"
My son's smile never faltered, and he didn't miss a beat as he quick-stepped to the pool and immediately jumped into a rowdy game of pool tag with D's younger brother. Anyone watching could tell that D's aloofness didn't bother him a bit. - Except, I noticed that he didn't bother greeting any of the other youth he saw on his way to the pool either. Anyone who REALLY knows my son could tell you that it hurt a lot more than he was willing to admit.