Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sticks and stones

Today is anti-bullying day and I am sporting my pink hoodie in support of raising awareness about bullying. The funny thing is, I don't think bullying needs more awareness, kindness does. Before you get all uptight about me sounding unsupportive of a great cause, let me explain...

I hated elementary school. My memories include some laughter and a couple beloved teachers, but they are over shadowed by memories of feeling lonely, outcast, misunderstood and being "different." I learned to distrust people and their motives by Jr.High and had very few long term friends. I bounced from social group to social group never feeling like I belonged. I was teased about my height, weight, breast size, how I expressed my emotions, and my socio-economic status. Entering adulthood, I just assumed that is what the whole world is like.

The unfortunate part is that, for awhile, the whole world proved me right. The news was constantly streaming murder, violence, war, and rape into my home. Television shows and movies were full of conflict, violence, and yes, sometimes do-gooders, but often brooding ones who justified the means by their ends. Advertisements on TV, in magazines, and billboards were constant reminders of the ways I wasn't giving my children everything, being beautiful enough to satisfy my husband, or living in a nice enough house to invite people over. Somehow, I still felt like I didn't belong anywhere. That I wasn't good enough.

Worse than all of the indirect pressure, was the direct pressure. People who didn't understand that we were choosing a big family and a stay-at-home mom lifestyle would give us "helpful" advice. "Sarah, you could get a job too. There is subsidy for daycare now. Then you guys could buy a house." In our darkest time, Alex was laid off just before Hannah was born and we were forced to go on welfare for a few months. Alex was depressed, my Dad almost died, Hannah was an incredibly sick baby and I began to suffer from post-partem depression. When I was still pregnant, the man at the welfare office demanded that I go look for work and made a rather derogatory comment about why we were having another child if we couldn't support the one already in our care. It didn't matter that Alex is one of the most hard-working men I know. It didn't matter that we had paid into that service and it is meant to be a safety net. It didn't matter that Alex was determined to work again as soon as possible. We had been labelled lazy and it was apparently OK to punish us for it. Luckily he was corrected by a supervisor.

My point is, bullying is everywhere and constant. It is not just in school or from kids. It's in welfare offices, on the street, evident in road rage and permeating every social media platform created. Negativity, judgement and quick-witted sarcasm are not only present, but celebrated and encouraged by the laughter, assumptions, and self-righteous ideals of even the most mature, usually kind, individuals in moments of thoughtless carelessness. We are all aware of bullying. We all engage in it even it is just as silent spectators. 

My proposition is that maybe the movement of good news is just what we need. The coffee shop magazines that tell stories of kindness, justice and beauty feed my soul and make me a better person. The incredible videos of courage posted by my friends on Facebook give me hope and inspire me to be the kind of person that walks in courage myself. Just like words can hurt us, they can bring life and healing and joy.

So today, in honour of anti-bullying day, alongside our posts about bullying and the damage it causes, let's also make it pro-kindness day! I challenge every friend who reads this post today to share an uplifting story or video or quote in person, on Facebook or any other platform they have. 

It is not enough to abolish what is wrong, we must fill the gap that is left with what is right. 
If you want to dispel the darkness, you gotta shine some light.

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