Yesterday my two oldest girls were telling me about an incident at their middle school. Apparently a group of kids decided to bully one of the school janitors who has some disabilities. There was a schoolwide announcement made that the bullies could turn themselves in and receive a lesser punishment or wait to be discovered by the school and be dealt with more severely.
I hate hearing stories like this. I much prefer living in my little bubble where I believe that the world is good and people with disabilities are treated with love and respect.
Part of my anger upon hearing of the school incident stems from the fact that I have a tender spot for those with disabilities. You probably don't know that if I had graduated from college my degree would have enabled me to be a teacher in a special needs classroom.
But the deepest, darkest part of that anger is derived from my own days at school where I was the target of bullies. These are times I still prefer not to speak of - the feelings and emotions they dredge up are still tender and difficult. Because of this I do not and will not tolerate bullies.
You know the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"? Rubbish.
I prefer physical pain. Physical pain is tangible. Physical pain can be soothed or fixed. Throw a stone at me. Hit me with a stick. It will hurt for a while but the pain will eventually go away.
Not so with the emotional heartache and pain that come from name-calling and teasing. This is intimidation and endless torment. This is anguish in its purest form. This is the power of words.
Because of what I was forced to endure throughout elementary and middle school I have developed what I call 'super empathy'. I can not see or hear of an injustice such as the incident at my girls' school and not want to do something about it, yet I often feel powerless to do so. Which brings about this question: what can I do, really?
I can persuade. I can educate. As difficult as it may be, I can share my own stories and hope they make a positive impact. I can raise my own children to seek out those who could use a friend- to understand that those who are labeled as 'different' are really very much the same as anyone else and deserve to be treated as such.
As the saying goes, I can be the change I wish to see in the world.
And I can work on that every day... and hope it makes a difference.