I stumbled upon a Washington Post article entitled, “Classmates wouldn’t sign his yearbook. So older students stepped in.” And it brought me right back to my public school nightmare of being bullied and ignored and made to feel inadequate. Pressure to be popular permeated the very walls of my schools, and I never made it to that summit. Instead, I collected all the misfits, and we meshed and occasionally glanced upward to a place where we knew we’d never be.
As much as I loved reading and learning and getting straight A’s on my report card, I viewed school as something that must be endured for 12 years until I could break free of all the judgment and hostility. Mostly, I kept my head down and tried not to be noticed/beat up/humiliated. And when you add braces, glasses, severe acne, poverty, a complex home life, a heaping helping of pompous intelligence combined with an extreme deficit of self-esteem, and clothes that were way out of style, and you stir all of that up into an already toxic social stew, is it any wonder that I was chronically depressed?
I did get to confront my worst bully decades later, and wrote about it here. She didn’t remember any of it. Even so, rereading that post is cleansing for me. I’m proud of everything I said to her, and I feel like I got it out of my system. It kind of felt like bursting an abscess: briefly painful and unpleasant, but oh, the blessed release of pressure, and the knowledge that healing can begin!
So reading that article about a 12-year-old boy who had been constantly bulled and felt so alone that everyone refused to sign his yearbook, I wanted to hug him and cry, and tell him that things will get better, even if that’s hard to believe at the moment.
But what I love most about this story is the older students who stepped in. Apparently the kid’s mother was talking about the situation in a closed Facebook group for parents of children at that school, and those parents then told their kids, and several different sets of kids independently decided to be part of the solution. They gathered a bunch of friends, and they all went and introduced themselves and signed his yearbook and talked about bullies, and sent a message that bullying isn’t to be tolerated. Many of these students remain his friends and keep in touch with him.
I’m sure that did wonders for that young man’s self-esteem. And maybe, just maybe, it made it possible for him to someday become an 18-year-old boy who is comfortable in his own skin, and who isn’t bitter, impulsive, and potentially a harm to himself or someone else. Just like that, some teens became aware of an injustice, and came together to make the world a better place. Bravo!
I wish all public schools would create a Bully Busters Club. These kids could do talks about bullying, and they could form an alliance of children that vowed not to be bullies, but instead be caring, compassionate and civic-minded. They could spread the word that if you don’t feel like you fit in, come join this group! Everyone is welcome. Strength in numbers. This group would need constant promoting and support so as to avoid becoming the club that no one wants to be a part of, but I think it could be done.
It would have been so nice to have a safe place to land when I was in school. If done right, a group like that would quickly outpace the popular clique and the sports clique, and pretty much every other grouping, and make it clear that inclusivity and kindness are the real things to care about, not popularity.
We need more of this, please.
The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5