“What are you going to do?” he said with a shrug.
Making it stop
Nilan’s biggest regret now is not spending more time with his family. He is the grandfather of two boys but he sees them more on Skype than in person.
But he’s taking life a day at a time.
Before heading to his second speaking engagement of the day, he makes an impromptu visit to the Horseshoe Falls. The thundering waterfall invigorates him.
“I’ve been down in my life, I’ve been knocked down, and I always get back on my feet,” he said. “There’s an old saying: It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up, you know? And I keep getting back up.”
At Lakeshore Catholic High School in Port Colborne, a student asks Nilan if he had ever been bullied.
“I had a kid that picked on me,” he says. “I was a small kid in high school. One day he pushed me against the locker and wanted to fight me and I had to defend myself. And I did defend myself.”
The bully, he says, walked away with a bloody nose.
The crowd erupts into applause.
Nilan shakes his head and gives the signal for them to stop.
“No, no, don’t get me wrong here,” he says. “I’m not condoning the violence. I’m not saying that’s the answer. The kid never bothered me again, and no one else did.”
He leaves the students with his three-step plan:
“Say, ‘Stop, leave me alone,’ and walk away. Report it to anyone in a position of authority. And tell your parents. And it stops.
“You have to speak up.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org