The first time I was called “fatso”, it was by a cute redheaded boy back in third grade.
I didn’t even know I was overweight. I guess my family didn’t either as they never mentioned it. I went home crying that night and asked Mom to tell me the truth.
“Sweetie, you are beautiful, healthy, and talented,” she soothingly stated.”If you would feel better, we’ll go see Dr. Johnson. For the first time I went on a “diet” – but it certainly wasn’t my last.
My older sister was a cheerleader – size 6, and I couldn’t even wear her hand-me-downs. I gained the most weight when I was in high school, then I would go on crash diets and binge again. No one was harder on me than I was on myself.
I was self-conscious about my looks and I vowed that if I fulfilled my dream of becoming a teacher, I promised no child would be called hurtful names –not in my classroom. I was in my 20’s and married, when I began a healthy well-balanced eating program. It wasn’t a diet, it was a new way of living.
For thirty years I have kept off 100 pounds; and I did become a teacher! And my school encouraged me in forming groups and clubs where all students could come talk, encourage one another and feel accepted.
We initiated lunchtime Peer Groups and the news traveled quickly. The following year, we anonymously wrote our personal stories, compiling them into a production entitled Choices! The local newspaper wrote a story about us. Then we were contacted by Bell Telephone to film an educational Teachers Packet to be distributed to schools throughout the United States, so they could implement such programs as well. Our producer submitted Choices for a regional Emmy Award – and amazingly, we won!
I have come to believe that wherever you have been hurt is where God will use you to help others. When you’ve been there yourself you have true empathy. Perhaps that is why I have always loved children who just didn’t fit in. I helped initiate our district’s Alternative School; my classroom was the first to host full inclusion special needs students. I cried when that year I was elected Teacher of the Year; my students were the real heroes.
Several years later, upon retirement I was one of five teachers nationwide inducted into the National Teachers Hall Of Fame. That has become my platform to speak in schools throughout the world about the uniqueness of every child. Overcomers are best equipped to help others.
The boy who called me Fatso apologized many years later. But I had already forgiven him. Since thousands of people have now heard “my story,” maybe there are thousands more waiting to hear yours. Once you know how special and unique you are, you will truly believe the words of Dr. Seuss:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” What is your story?
Read more posts by Debra Peppers, Ph.D., here. Dr. Peppers blogs for JenningsWire.