By Trevor Romain
Kids love to share their stories, especially after I share my own personal stories during my USO school talks.
Depending on questions from the kids, I sometimes include how I deal with the loss of my dad.
After one assembly at a base in Puerto Rico, a fifth-grade boy said he wanted to speak to me privately. His father had been killed in action in Afghanistan not long before.
One of the teachers told me the boy had been bullying kids at the school and hurt some kids badly because he could not control his temper. The school administrators felt they could not expel the boy because his father had recently passed away, so they tried to manage the situation as best they could.
“Thank you so much,” the boy said after he came up to me. “You really helped me.”
“How did I help you?” I asked, not quite sure what he was talking about.
“You helped me figure out that I am bullying kids because I am angry about what happened to my dad.”
I acknowledged the boy’s situation and we went on to discuss ways he could deal with his anger.
As adults, it is sometimes easy to understand why we behave in a particular way, but this boy had no clue why he was bullying other kids until he heard our presentation.
During my talks I always challenge kids to be nice. “I triple dog-dare any of you in this room to be kind,” I say at every presentation.
I thanked the boy for sharing his story and shook his hand, wishing him well. As he walked away he turned to me and said, “I accept your challenge.”
I gave him a thumbs up and got a sweet, genuine smile in return. I got an email from one of the boy’s classmates a few weeks later. He said, “You won’t believe it Mr. Romain, but the bully actually stopped a fight the other day.”
A few weeks after that I got another email, this time from the former bully himself. “Dear Mr. Romain,” he wrote, “I am still taking your dog-dare challenge.”
He went on to tell me that in honor of his dad, he had started a club to welcome new kids at the school and even asks them to sit with him at lunch.
I bet his dad is so proud of him.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.