Primary school can be a brutal place. Half formed people who are working out what we later refer to as "societal norms".

June was a tiny girl, almost certainly malnourished, her hair always matted, disheveled clothes. I can't remember her ever saying anything. She would sit in class with scared eyes in a permanent "fight or flight" state. The other kids called her "germs" and it was said that if you touched her "you got germs". It was my first experience of someone being shunned, being a kid I didn't intellectualise it, it just didn't seem right.

Pam was a big girl who was a thalidomide victim. One of her legs was much shorter than the other and her arms were half formed. She awkwardly got around on crutches, having such a conspicuous disability she was easy prey. The thing I remember most about her was her beautiful nature. One day we were playing in puddles at the shelter shed, jumping over them, splashing in them. Pam tried to go over the puddle and she fell smack bang in the middle of the puddle, the kids erupted in laughter and derision, "look at the spaso" as Pam sat in the puddle crying her eyes out. I stood there, utterly frozen and did nothing but I knew it was wrong.
I didn't realise it then but I was beginning to learn empathy.

My silence still haunts me.


For as long as I can remember, I have not taken the views of the herd to mean much. It has meant doing and saying things that I knew might not be popular. I simply knew, in my heart of hearts that the herd didn't necessarily get it right and peer group acceptance was largely meaningless. I knew instinctively and viscerally that what the other kids were doing to Pam and June was wrong, I did not know then that not taking part was an noble achievement. To not take part, sets you apart. We see it all the time when it becomes fashionable to demonise a group. It is a trait that has served me well. In the words of Aurelius, "Your decency does not depend on the testimony of someone else" The ability to not care what others think of you or your position makes you immune to the vagaries of herd mentality.
A natural Corollary to this line of thinking is the Four agreements, the third of which states: "Don't take anything personally, (Nothing others do is because of you)
If someone dumps you, it's not actually about you, it's about another persons perception of you. I once dumped an amazing woman because of my own issues, she was great! She had done nothing wrong although she probably scratched her head for a long time. There are many well worm pieces of advice that address this issue: " what someone else thinks of me is none of my business" and the classic statement from Groucho Marx " I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me"