In homes and schools across the country, we focus on teaching the principles of kindness and taking care of each other. Yet, far too often, student and adult cultures can be defined by harsh words, lack of understanding, and an unwillingness to act at a basic level of kindness. In our school meeting this past week, we explored the times in our lives when we were bullied, when we were bullies, and when we were bystanders. It was noteworthy that so many of us could relate to one or the other of these categories at some point in our upbringing. Everyone was asked to think about the following questions:
- When in my life have I bullied/disrespected another person? What happened and how did I feel about it?
- Describe a time in my life when I have been bullied/disrespected. What effect did it have on me and how do I feel about it?
- When have I witnessed someone being bullied and let it happen? How did I feel about it then and how do I feel about it now?
Students and faculty members got up and shared thoughts about these questions:
"I have disrespected and even bullied my Mom at times, but we are working on that now."
"When I was a child, I had a medical condition and got unmercifully bullied by people I knew and people seeing me at the mall. It really affected me. Later, when I got bigger and stronger, I became the bully--partly because then I could be the one in that position."
"In 6th grade, I had a friend that I played with in the neighborhood, but we were in different social circles at the school. One day, I saw my school friends pull her aside, throw her book down into the gutter, and taunt her. While I didn't join in, I stood frozen on the sidelines. It has always bothered me that I didn't have the courage to stand up for her."
It was powerful to hear some of our stories and realize that all of us have had experiences like this that have impacted us. When we take hold of the kindness and grace within ourselves and others, we may find the courage to help lead others in this matter.
Laura D. Gauld '76