I was recently horrified by something I saw on television. It made my hands clammy, my stomach sick, and broke my heart into a billion pieces. I couldn’t sleep that night because my mind wouldn’t let go of the heart-breaking tragedy and senseless suffering. It wasn’t a horror movie, an episode of Fringe (love), or even a Swine Flu story. It was beyond anything these could ever dream up.
It was the story of a young boy who killed himself. Unless you’re familiar with the story, you may initially think the young boy was in his early twenties or a teenager. Would it stop you cold in your tracks to know he was a fifth grader? Hence the clammy hands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m greatly disturbed by anyone committing suicide – after all, the next day or even the next hour could right the ship and turn their life entirely around. The next person they spoke to could have JUST the thing they need to hear. Suicide is one of the most senseless and heartbreaking things I can imagine. Murdering yourself? I can’t even imagine the sort of extreme pain and helplessness that goes on inside of someone’s mind right before they end their own life. But a child? What a complete and total tragedy.
In this case, this little boy was the victim of bullies at school. According to his mother, he had complained to the school authorities but they had failed to do anything. If that’s the case, it’s something they’ll live with forever.
However, can I say something without seeming like a total jerk? If my child were being bullied at school, I wouldn’t have left it to the school authorities. I would have gone to the parents of the bullies: Face to face. Never leave something entirely up to someone else, chances are they’ll fail you – don’t give them that chance.
In everyone’s defense, this is an entirely different generation that we’re dealing with here. Think back to an episode of Andy Griffith – the one where Opie is being bullied by a little chump who wants Opie’s lunch money. Andy decides to let Opie take care of it and, by the end of the show, Opie has a black eye – but he also has his lunch money.
I’m afraid that a lot of parents and school authorities seem to think they’re in Mayberry in the 1960s. Can you say, Far freaking from it?
The little boy who hung himself was being called ugly, gay and “the Virgin” (because he was from the Virgin Islands) at school. On his last day on earth, he didn’t want to go to school. I’m certain it was far too painful. When he came home from school, he went up to his room and hung himself with a belt in his closet. A fourth grader! A baby! And I’m getting sick again.
I wasn’t going to write about this simply because it’s such a painful and tragic subject. However, I can’t NOT write about it. Why? Because it’s such a painful and tragic subject – and one I hope to never see or read about ever again. I’m urging everyone to speak out against bullying, name calling, and intolerance. In our society, in our daily conversations, in our blogging, in our jokes, and so on.
- How many times does the average person use derogatory, ugly names in regards to someone who looks different from them?
- How many times does a child hear their parents criticize another person because they look different from how THEY think they should look?
- How often does a son hear his dad make jokes about the sexual orientation of another person – treating them as though they aren’t even human?
- How often does a daughter see hear mother use racial slurs?
Why can’t more people simply live their own life, enjoy themselves, have fun, try to help make the world a better, happier place and allow others to do the same? WHY bully? WHY make fun of people? WHY sneer at others? WHY tell jokes that aren’t even remotely funny? People who have ever taken part in this sort of thing – I wish they could have watched the news story with me, because afterward I would have loved to have asked them, “Are you still laughing?’
This little boy looked different from the other kids and they pounced on him like wolves on a rabbit. Like so many adults, they seemed to think they were the “norm,” that they were somehow superior – so they belittled, bullied, picked, and prodded an innocent child. To death.
If you have children, grandchildren, or younger brothers and sisters, keep the lines of communication open. Explain to them the dangers (and vileness) of bullying and calling other people names. For crying out loud, be certain that you don’t do it, yourself – not even jokingly. Trust me, it isn’t funny.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy such as this to educate people. Let’s make sure that that is exactly what happens. Personally, I think that most people (especially children) who bully are actually very unhappy. More times than not, they’re trying to fill a void in their own life. All the more reason to reach out to them.
Children should be taught that:
- Everyone is different. It’s what makes the world a fascinating and interesting place to live. They are JUST as different and original as anyone else they see.
- Racism and intolerance are ugly, far uglier than the worst monster they can imagine. Hatred makes the individual who owns it ugly. Point out to them that it’s the same as holding a red marker in your hand, without its lid. The ink comes out and stains your hand. If we hold hatred in our hearts and minds, ugliness and bitterness come out and stain all of us – not just our hands.
- Illustrate your point with a box of crayons. Show the child how beautiful all of the different colors are. Ask him or her how interested they’d be in a box where each and every crayon was the same color?! Each pictured they colored would be entirely in that color alone. Boring.
- They should know that they will be punished if you ever find out they have bullied or made fun of another person. Let the child know that you have ZERO tolerance for them being cruel to another person. Tell them that if this ever happens, they’ll find out exactly what grounded means!
- Children should know that television is totally make believe. Reality television is kind of blurring the lines for children, I’m afraid. How could it not?! It blurs the lines for some adults. Always be extremely careful what young children watch on television and try to always watch their shows with them. Don’t hesitate to hit pause during a show or movie to explain a situation to them.
Adults should know that:
- Children are watching you.
- Children are listening to you.
- Children look up to you and imitate you, whether you realize it or not.
Hug the children in your life, take them out for a sundae, and have a really long talk with them. Chocolate therapy and hugs can make a difference…. and believe me one needs to be made.