Why we should all step up when it comes to bullying

So it might just be my tear ducts working over time as usual (I am sure I am getting worse as I get older, I never used to be this soft…) but watching this video has me in bits every time:

I’ve got to admit, the first time I saw it on a friend’s facebook feed and pressed play, it was with a slight feeling of trepidation; would anyone intervene? How would I handle my own internal disappointment with humanity as a whole if they didn’t? One of the things that scares me most about the society we live in today is our disconnectedness; the fear we seem to feel and the way in which that permeates our social interactions – or lack of them. A part of me longs to return to the days when it was perfectly acceptable for another adult to clip you round the ear and drag you home to your parents if you stepped out of line; when we weren’t terrified of sticking up for the kid on the night bus for fear of being knifed by some yoof who looks far too young to be out alone at this time of night. I’m sure it’d make the world a safer place for my kids, whom I worry about daily as they spread their wings and venture yet farther still from the protection of our small and pitifully ill-equipped-to-protect-them-forever nest.

So as I watched the film,half holding my breath and peering out from behind my fingers, as I watched people step up and speak out and respond to  what was admittedly a set up and acted out scene, maybe those tears leaking from my eyes were not tears of sadness, but of relief. Now, I know it is a film, and therefore edited to portray a message, and it is American, so slightly culturally different from here, but hey; I was heartened. And that’s better than being bitterly disappointed with your fellow man any day of the week.

But it wasn’t just that people did respond and intervene that warmed the cockles of my soul; it was more that that. You know what touched me the most? It was the way in which some people responded. The mum and daughter that offered to ride with the little girl on the bus; the man that patted the seat next to him and beckoned the girl away from her tormentors, offered her shelter and got his harmonica out and started to teach her to play. The woman that called her over, sat her down and told her she liked her pretty backpack. These people did more that just ‘the right thing’ by confronting the bullies and trying to stop their taunts, they extended a hand of friendship and built a bridge of human connection.  As they complemented that little girl, built her up, esteemed her, I watched a small, shy smile flicker across her face, and I was filled with a new hope.

Yes, the world can be a scary and awful and frankly horribly disappointing place – we only have to look to the events of this weekend in Paris to be reminded of that – but it can also be one of hope and togetherness and community and love. Ditto Paris again.

I only pray that if I ever see some-one in the same situation as that little girl – or any situation comparable to it – that I have the guts and courage to stand up and step in, and the compassion and the grace to reach out and try to repair the damage done in some small way, just like the people in that film did. Of course it would be trite to think that complimenting someone on their backpack in any way undoes the mental and physical scars that some children bear from the horrors of bullying, but that doesn’t negate the good that we can do with a kind word, gesture or touch.  Sometimes it can feel scary – either because of a threat of real physical harm, or sometimes just because in our Englishness, or our overly-right-on-child-protection-gone-mad society we really and truly and honestly wonder what people might think if we strike up a conversation, or extend a warm hand to a small child to whom we are not blood related. For the love of God.

Never despise the small things, that’s what it says somewhere in the Good Book. And this week, Anti Bullying Week, may we all be reminded that there are always small things we can all do extend the milk of human loving-kindness to some-one else in need. With the events of the weekend, it seems more important now than ever to remind ourselves not to shy away from the pain and the hurt of our fellow man. Because whether it’s a kid bullying another kid, or a terrorist bombing innocent people, the same quote still holds true:

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

Only when we refuse to live in a bubble of self preservation, when we take the often risky and sometimes painful step of reaching out where we can; when we live with our eyes and our hearts wide open and take any and every single chance to step into a situation and respond with love and kindness to our fellow man (or woman, or small girl at the bus stop), only then will bullies everywhere be defeated. Those with weapons, and those with words.

Maybe I’ll start carrying a harmonica with me. You never know when someone might need you to whistle them a happy tune.


 

I’m delighted to share with you some very exciting news from a very dear friend of mine that ties in  perfectly with this week’s post. Words and your heart is a beautiful new children’s book, written and illustrated by the amazing Kate Neal, in response to something that one of her own children went through at school. It truly is a stunning book, with illustrations that will capture any child’s heart, and words that will help them understand why what we say and how we say it is so very, very important. A great anti-bullying resource, you can get it now on Kindle, or like her Facebook page to stay updated on the print launch!

pip