The buzziest buzzword in education these days is "bullying." Teachers and administrators constantly regale kids with anti-bullying mandates, speeches and slogans.
Actually, to say that they "regale kids" might be an understatement. In some cases, school officials essentially bully students into not "bullying," as they define it. That's something I've observed firsthand--a story, perhaps, for another time.
My point is that some of our worst bullies these days are not young children or even teenagers but rather adults who should know better. And this is true not only in our schools but in every walk of life. Give certain people a little bit of power, and they're apt to exercise it unjustly.
Ironically, that tends to be especially true in situations where the stakes aren't particularly high -- like a neighborhood homeowners' association. In my experience, few organizations offer more or better opportunities for people to bully others, if they're so inclined.
Yes, I understand the important role that homeowners' associations play in maintaining property values. I mean, if it hadn't been for my HOA, my home might have lost 20 to 30 percent of its value since 2008.
Oh, wait ...
I also recognize that being an HOA officer or board member is a thankless job. I certainly wouldn't want to do it. Walking around measuring people's grass with a ruler is not my idea of a good time.
But when those who are elected to serve the community and handle legitimate problems morph over time into the neighborhood yard police, using the power of their office to harass and threaten neighbors, then they've crossed the line from board member to bully.
And yes, as you might have guessed, I did just recently receive a letter from my HOA. It basically said my grass needed to be cut, although it took the writer about 300 words and several vague threats to get to the point. That's the second such letter I've received in the past two years. In both cases, I had already cut my grass before the letter even arrived.
In other words, here's what happened: I went out to go to work one morning and said to myself, "Dang, my grass needs to be cut." Later that day, one of the yard police sauntered by, notebook in hand, and said to himself, "Rob's grass needs to be cut. We must threaten him immediately."
Seriously? You're going to send me a nasty letter because it's Thursday and I won't have time to mow my yard until Saturday?
Here's my official response to that individual, and to all the yard police who may be reading: Back off. I pay my dues. I keep my property up. I'm a good neighbor. I'm also a busy guy who works hard to earn a living. I'll mow my yard when I get around to it.
Meanwhile, stop bullying me or I'll tell the teacher.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility," available on Amazon and at Books for Less in Buford. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit familymanthebook.com.