Standing up to bullying

Author Beverly Davis talked about bullying at an event Friday at the DeForest Area Community and Senior Center and read from one of her three books, all of which are centered around the main character Great Gray, an elephant born with an ear on the top of his head. Great Gray is ridiculed and ostracized because of the deformity, but eventually becomes a hero after saving a town from catastrophe. Davis’ books call for acceptance and inclusion for all.

Beverly Davis was always the quiet type. She never spoke up in class and “tried to fade into the woodwork,” she said.

Davis added, “I’ve done that most of my life.” That’s the kind of effect bullying can have on someone.

Nowadays, Davis is speaking up about bullying, having written a series of three books about acceptance and inclusion. They are meant to foster self-esteem in readers and address an uncomfortable subject.

The main character is Great Gray, an elephant born with an ear on the top of his head, and they take place in India. Ridiculed and marginalized, Great Gray is exiled from his village, but later, with the help of his keeper Santosh, he rescues a community from disaster thanks to his ability to communicate in semaphore signals and is celebrated for his heroism.

Badly bullied as a child, Davis discussed the problem and her books – “Great Gray,” “Great Gray Meets New Friends” and “Namaste Great Gray” – Friday at the DeForest Area Community and Senior Center. She works with illustrator Linda Cowen.

A former chaplain with Angel Attic Place in Middleton, Davis will also be appearing at the DeForest Area Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 20, for an “Addressing Bullying” presentation with DeForest School Counselor Kerry Johnson.

Davis said she doesn’t know why she was bullied, but explained, “It’s something that follows you all your life.”

And it doesn’t only happen with children. Davis said she’s seen it with adults, too.

“You can’t let it fester,” said Davis. “You have to address it.”

One woman at the event said her two grandchildren suffered a lot of bullying because of their disabilities.

Davis said there is more light being shined on the topic than ever before, especially with children and today’s social media.

Being introverted, Davis didn’t want to speak up about being put down when she was younger.

“I didn’t talk about it,” said Davis. “I didn’t want to be told to shut up. I’m still not one who wants attention.”

Davis is getting over her shyness. She is going wherever she can to share her story and do what she can to end bullying, talking to grandparents, parents and kids.

Once a successful interior designer in Chicago, who even appeared on HGTV early on in the network’s existence, Davis experienced a big life change at age 55 that led her to attend the seminary. It was a leap of faith. She didn’t want to be a pastor, but the idea of being a chaplain appealed to her.

After graduating from seminary in 2007, Davis moved to Wausau for a clinical pastoral residency. During that period, she dreamt a story about an elephant born with an ear on his head. She went to the hospital where she worked the next day and told a friend about it. Harris was advised to write it all down.

“The dream opened up new worlds,” said Davis.

Initially, Davis didn’t think anybody would want to read her book about Great Gray. Time after time, she would meet people with similar experiences of bullying and kept giving them her book. They told her she needed to do something with it.

In talking with another friend, who’d authored three or four books on dealing with Parkinson’s disease, Davis was told to send her book to her friend’s editor and the rest is history.

Davis, whose deceased former husband was a writer, is taking a break from her chaplaincy at Angel Attic to be an anti-bullying advocate. She talked at the Community and Senior Center about how her son, Gavin, was also bullied in school and how she was unable to help because she didn’t have the tools to do so.

Now, Davis has some ideas on how to help those who are getting bullied.

“Tell them that it’s okay to share your feelings with your parents,” said Davis. “Communication is the most important thing. My son kept it to himself, but I could see what was happening.”

Davis said the strength to deal with bullying must come from inside. That’s why it’s important to build up a child’s self-esteem. Her books can help with that.

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