(Note: this post is non-food related.)
The news lately about children and teen suicides over bullying has me thinking and has touched my heart.
It’s a sad world and it is a beautiful world, all at the same time. When you are in a bad place everything looks worse. All the bad things are magnified when you feel you are all alone.
I think that people become bullies because they are in a bad situation and they are taught that in order to feel better they can put others down. Making someone feel bad to match the bad feelings or fear you have inside yourself can give you a sense of power and control when you feel powerless or scared. It is horrible isn’t it, it is a spiraling cycle of hate and self-hate.
I think the key to healing the world from bullies and to heal those who are bullied or who feel alone to the point of despair is kindness.
I know what it is like to be bullied. And worse, I know what it is like to feel alone.
As a kid I had a good life, we were fairly well off, lived in an affluent neighborhood, we had good schools very nearby and a good community. What I didn’t know was that it was not really real. My parents divorced and suddenly we were pariahs. Suddenly, we had no money for food, clothes or anything. Mom got a variety of jobs and kept us afloat but in an insular class-conscious neighborhood we were alarmingly different. Some of my friends began avoiding me. Some of their parents told me not to come over to play anymore. I was a product of a “broken home” and was viewed as a negative influence or something. I was a happy kid, but this change was too much and it made me sad.
Kids in my neighborhood bullied and teased me because I was sad. No one in my school or neighborhood was divorced and there was no one I could talk to. It never occurred to me that I could talk to anyone.
Times were different then. Can you believe how different things were? My mom couldn’t get a credit card in her own name from JC Penny’s or the gas station, not because she didn’t have income or credit history, but because she was a divorcée. She was the president of the PTA but after the divorce, despite successful terms, she was never invited to hold office again. It really boggles my mind.
The kids from my neighborhood and school used to hit me and yell at me “Heather Heather don’t cry” until, of course, I would. These were dark days. I remember walking home from school carrying my flute when some older kids, the older brothers from the kids in my grade, started bullying me and grabbed my flute and threw the case on the sidewalk. I ran home, crying and terrified, and ran into my sister. I guess I blubbered this story out and she had a grim look on her face, and she stomped off.
We were tall girls, taller than everyone our own age, even throughout high school. My sis was tall and skinny but strong from sailing and climbing trees and all the camping and backpacking we did. She marched over to those bullies who were a little older than her, and took my flute back. She told them to never mess with me again. They taunted her but she stayed strong and did not react. They grabbed a huge rock from a garden bed and heaved it at her, striking her smack in the sternum. She didn’t flinch. She walked away, head high, jaw set. The mean boys were awed. I wasn’t bullied much after that. They told their little brothers and sisters too, or must have, because my classmates pretty much stopped bothering me too. They were afraid my sister would come after them. And she would have. She’s my hero.
What they didn’t know was how scared she was, and how that rock hurt her. She cried once at home, and when mom got home from work she gently put an ice pack on her to help ease the pain. She was horribly bruised but never let on this to anyone except our mom. I was too little to know these things, I just thought she was amazing. I still do! After that day, I didn’t feel so alone.
The kids in my neighborhood were taught to fear anything different, and apparently so were their parents. We were too different and were therefore a threat. If their parents had been able to spread kindness to their children instead of fear, so that they would be kind to others instead of attack someone who was different, perhaps they wouldn’t have bullied me for being different, for being sad.
The children in the news didn’t have a big sister like mine to help them I guess. They felt too alone to reach out or felt there was no use.
Imagine if a little kindness was spread around the world, if everyone reacted first with empathy and kindness instead of fear and scorn every time we experienced something or someone different. If, instead of reacting to a bully with hate and anger about their behavior, we said instead, hey, what is *really* going on? Why are you so afraid or so angry? And, by that kindness, allowing a tiny crack inside to the darkness, it let healing begin. If instead of allowing bullying to happen, we reach out to the victim to say, hey, I have been there too, and it gets better. A lot of celebrities are spreading this message now, and I think it’s important that the common person also spreads this message of hope and kindness.
Today, I don’t care that I was bullied, it’s a part of my history but doesn’t register as important in my life. Those people were fools and I don’t feel upset. I feel sorry for them. I hope they think back on their behavior and feel shame. I hope they think about kindness toward others and try to teach kindness to their children.
A part of me feels this reaching out with kindness is not really “human nature” but human nature is really a learned behavior that can be changed, isn’t it? Perhaps I am the fool in thinking that we can all spare some kindness. But is it foolish to have hope? Hope that we can try just a little harder, a little here and there, to practice being more kind and tolerant? We may not ever achieve it, but perhaps just trying to be more kind can surely help. At the very least, those who feel so alone and so different might be helped to see that they aren’t. It’s hard to feel alone when someone holds your hand.