Kindness is extremely important to me, as you will know if you have read this blog at all. I go out of my way to model kindness, and to teach my sons to show kindness. Today on Pink Shirt Day I wanted to share why kindness means so much to me.
Bullying has been getting a lot of press lately, as people are starting to realize the serious and detrimental consequences of it. But bullying is nothing new. I am 38 years old now, but when I was 11 I was a victim of bullying. I'd like to say though, that I don't even like to use the word bullying. We call it bullying, but really it is abuse, and it is a learned behavior like any other.
In my life, bullying came as a result of another form of abuse. I had been sexually abused by a teenage boy, who then decided to spread word around town that I was a “great lay”. Overnight I became known as the town slut. I was a social pariah. No one could risk being seen to be friends with me. I spent my lunch hours hiding in the library, reading choose your own adventure books to escape my reality. On bus rides home I was taunted by older boys, who would throw food at me and tell me to close my legs because they could smell my last customer.
I would go home at the end of the day and pretend that everything was ok, until one day I couldn’t pretend any more. Within a week my father had arranged for me to be transferred to a new school. It was like heaven. I made friends, I lived a normal life. But those scars are always in my heart. I will never forget how it feels to be so utterly alone and helpless. And I am so lucky that I was born into a pre-Facebook era. Today I would not have gotten off so easy. Today there would be no escape. I would be Amanda Todd.
When we talk about bullying, it is not children squabbling over a toy. It is torture. The fact that it occurs to so many children and youth means that at some level we, as a society, have deemed it a “normal” part of growing up. These bullies have learned from their parents that it is acceptable to target someone who is different from them, to de-humanize and objectify another person.
If we want a world without bullying, the answer is simple: kindness. We need to teach kindness and compassion, from preschool to university. Empathy is not optional in our world. It will take a cultural shift in thinking, but I believe it is possible. I have to believe it is possible, because when I look at my sons, the thought of them being tormented like I was is more than I can bear. I hope for my children to go through life without these scars on their hearts. I hope for all our children that we can imagine a better future.
So whether you wear a pink shirt today or not, I hope you will take a moment to show some kindness to someone else today. These little acts of kindness say that you see and acknowledge that we are all in this together, and that is how we truly take a stand against bullying.