Bullying. Everybody hates it, and yet it still continues to exist. The real reason is that bullies feel insecure and have no way to express themselves. It’s not an excuse, and it definitely shouldn’t be a motive, but it is an explanation. No one really categorizes bullies past childhood, either. People tend to trivialize bullying as they get older, but it is still a problem for a lot of people. This professional chef faced his childhood bully…and had a reaction that surprised everyone.
I was 15 and moved to Philly from Texas. I had a pretty strong accent and had never been out of the state before so I didn’t know what to expect socially. On my first day of school I had the bad judgement to wear a Dallas Cowboys jersey thinking people will just laugh. Throughout the day, I got a few dirty looks and a few “you’ve got balls” comments. Last period goes by and I’m waiting for my bus out front when this huge guy comes up and starts talking trash. I tell him to knock it off and he knocks me out in one punch. He gets suspended and I’m told not to antagonize things.
Time goes by and he’s a constant pain in my life bullying me around on a weekly basis. He outweighed me by about 75 pounds thanks to his steroid use and had a temper to match. I got my butt kicked many times thanks to him and his manipulations. We graduate and I don’t see him for a few years.
I had always been into cooking and decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life so I went to culinary school and started working in the industry. I worked my way up the ladder quickly thanks to focus, a willingness to sacrifice a social life and hard work. A few years later I was the executive chef of a small bistro and we had a policy of taking a prisoner on work release from the county jail as part of a rehabilitation program.
The owner was a great guy who grew up without guidance and made some bad decisions early in life that got him thrown in jail for a few years. He got out, got a job as a dishwasher where the owner of that place saw some promise and took him under his wing giving him the life lessons he never got from his family and so on. This was his way of paying forward what he got.
We had gone through a few guys that seemed to do well and so far the program was working out well. One day we were slated to get a new guy and guess who walks in the door. He doesn’t notice me at first but then is introduced to me as his direct boss.
The owner starts to introduce me but I interrupt saying that we already know each other quite well and need no introductions. I told the owner about our history not leaving any details out and he asks me what I want to do. I tell him give me a few minutes in the walk in (large walk in refrigerator that is soundproof) with him and it’s all good.
I take him in there and ask him why he was in jail and where he was in his head. I also told him how I would treat him was up to him and that this could go well or he could turn right around and go right back to jail.
He ended up breaking down and spilling his heart out. Between drugs, an abusive household and having no real friends in school due to a total lack of social skills, he had no idea how to have a real relationship. He told me that the days he would kick my ass were the days after his old man would beat him when he got drunk. His life just went downhill after school and he ended up getting busted for dealing.
I told him to clean himself up and I’d do my best to show him how to get his life together. He ended up being one of the hardest workers I have ever seen.
Five years later he ended up being my sous chef. He has his own restaurant now and we guest chef at each other’s place all the time. I wouldn’t trade his friendship for the world.”
He gave his bully the benefit of the doubt. It was hard, and it probably took him a long time to get to that place. Being able to let go of anger and hatred is a talent that most of us just don’t have. In this guy’s case, it worked out for the better. Take a page from his book and remember it the next time you find yourself mulling over old hatred.
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