We prayed to God to be delivered from such an environment, where our children were not safe to play in the nearby city park. We prayed intensely after the police knocked on our door one night, telling us, "Lock up tight. We're after a violent gang." It was right behind our home!
We had our oldest son, John Paul, take Tae Kwon Do to protect himself. He was fourteen at the time and loved practicing his new skills on his numerous siblings.
In 1996, God answered our prayer and we moved to a small town in North Dakota. It was almost euphoric to live in a place with less than 200 people. We bought a house right across from the charming "city" park, with well-maintained slides, swings, and merry-go-round. Our children had a sense that they were safe to be care-free just as kids should be.
Independence Day arrived and it was more relevant than ever for us! Some members of the community welcomed visiting relatives. Among them was a family with some rowdy boys who enjoyed tearing through town, raising dust and disturbing the peace.
With his younger brothers and a few friends, John Paul had started a game of basketball, while waiting for dusk, when we would have our traditional family fireworks. Suddenly something whizzed by his ear. He turned around to see that a couple of the out-of-town boys (young teens) were lighting bottle rockets in the center of the park.
Our son approached the boys and politely asked, "Would you please light your rockets over at the abandoned school grounds?" The boy with the lighter looked at him with a mean grin and lit the next one, dropping it as before. The speeding rocket thankfully made it through the crowd of kids on the basketball court. John Paul took him by the shoulders and said, "I'm not asking anymore...move on!" Perhaps since 16-year-old John Paul was a head above both boys, they did as were told but not without yelling expletives as they ran away.
They called out, "We're gonna get our big brother and he's gonna kill you!" Shrugging it off, John Paul went back to the game. In less than five minutes the same van that had been menacing the community all morning, pulled up to the park. Out climbed three boys, which our son judged to be 18 to 20 years in age. The largest strode toward our son with fists clenched. He cursed at him for, "telling my brother what to do" and quickly slugged John Paul in the face. As our son struggled to regain footing, the thought crossed his mind that he could be tomorrow's headlines--similar to those so common in our former hometown paper
Just as the other two began to close in on John Paul, he thought, I know how to defend myself! He blocked the next punch and delivered a blow to his aggressor's mouth. Down went the bully, minus a front tooth!
He got back up and made for his van saying, "I'm gonna get my Dad!" In just a few minutes along came Dad! He showed up and demanded payment for his son's tooth. John Paul stood his ground and told him that his son had not even asked his side of things before throwing the first punch. The boy's father refused to listen and kept yelling at him to pay up! John Paul just turned and walked away.
After John Paul came home to tell us everything, we called the sheriff and explained what had transpired. The deputy came and interviewed John Paul. He had already discovered the identity of the others and told us that we should be proud of our son - that he had done well to protect the younger children and commended him for his heroism.
While we do encourage our children to follow the Gospel's admonition to "turn the other cheek," the Church does teach that since our bodies are sacred, they are deserving of being defended from aggression.
We cannot escape bullies entirely, but in this case, the bullies we sought to escape in Washington had prepared John Paul for bullies in our new home, thus proving Romans 8:28, "God can use all things for good for those who love him."
This story took place many years ago. John Paul is now a married man with five kids of his own. The author of this article, Nellie Edwards, began painting only recently with no previous fine art painting experience. She had devoted herself to the vocation as wife and mother of eight and her passion for ProLife work, including spreading the good news of Humanae Vitae. After her children were grown, she received both the inspiration and ability to paint. Check out her website: http://immaculataart.com