Ugly! Dog! Bitch! Nerd! Slut!
Unusual way to start a blog, isn't it? But, it wasn't an unusual way to start the day...not for me. I grew up in a very small town. I had about 27 classmates, most of whom had been in classes with me since the first grade. You would think with such a small group, we'd all be friends, that we'd have each other's backs, that we would be like a family. That was not my reality. Several of those kids bullied me on a daily basis, starting late in elementary school. One of the favored taunts was to simply bark at me as I walked down the hall. Another was to tell me to "speak English" when I used "big words" I had learned from reading so many books.
For years, I tried mostly to ignore them...That was the advice my mother gave me, and it seemed to be the most effective thing I could do. It did not make them stop, and it did not stop the pain. Intellectually, I knew the words were not true, but that didn't stop the pain either. It wore on me day after day, tainting my days and nights. I could not understand why these kids...people whom I had grown up with, would be so mean to me. It was devastating, and alot of the time I suffered through it alone. Most of the time I was silent, and so were the ones who could have made a difference, because we were not empowered. No one told us that we had a right, and the POWER to end the abuse that a lot of us faced, or at least soften the blows by encouraging each other with kind words and deeds.
I grew up, left that town, and I didn't look back for many years. I had a couple of close friends that I stayed in touch with, but that was it. Not much thought did I give to those years...after all, I had come into my own in the adult world. I was successful, well respected, and liked by most of my adult peers. Not until my own child started approaching her school years, did I re-visit that dark place in the past. I started seeing more and more reports on the news of suicides, and even homicides that were attributed to bullying. It broke my heart. Every time I hear a story about how a child has been hurt inside or out by classmates, and even teachers, I am saddened to my core.
There are many anti-bullying programs in the schools now, because so many children have died as a result of cruelty on the part of their peers. I have seen some of the efforts the schools make...anti-bullying signs in the hallways and the like. I don't think much of them, because they are empty words that don't empower anyone. There is one organization that I have seen recently who seems to have a better approach. It is called Stand for the Silent. It was started by the parents of a boy in Perkins, OK who took his own life recently, after being suspended from school for fighting with a bully. After this father explains the devastation a family feels after a child commits suicide, (a very emotional journey for the entire audience), they give out pledge cards that really make a person think. It is not aimed only at people who are being bullies, it is aimed at ALL people. I strongly believe in the message, and it is my hope that you will pass it on, and even support their mission, ask to have them speak at your school or event. Lives can and MUST be changed, for the sake of all of the children who are being bruised...on the inside or out by bullying.
From this day forward, I promise to respect those around me as well as respect myself. I am somebody, and I can make a difference. I can make another feel loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to a path of hope and aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hatred through my community. Insdead, I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters. I will be the change, because I am somebody.
There are wristbands you can purchase that say "I am somebody." on them. We bought some as Christmas gifts for kids we believe in, and as a reminder that we are all "somebody" who can make a difference.
Please visit www.standforthesilent.org.
Ponder this...if you don't Stand for the Silent, who will?