What Are You Looking At Big Eyes? Bullying Up Close and PersonalBy Nicki On October 17, 2012 Under Family
Last week I attended an annual meeting for 360 Youth Services. To kick off our all day planning for our Board of Directors, we were shown a movie about bullying. Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis. With the advancement of technology, online bullying has skyrocketed and we have unfortunately seen some of the painful outcome of bullying. As I watched the movie, it took me back to junior high school. It was an incredibly painful time but in retrospect, thanks to a strong circle of family and friends, it provided a great life lesson.
I’ll never forget walking in to gym class for my first day at a new school, in a new state, a new city and no friends. 7th grade at a school in Florida that was experimenting with open classrooms. Rooms were divided by chalkboards only, and hallways and restrooms had no ceilings. I wonder what Einstein came up with that great idea, it rains in Florida. But that was the least of my worries.
The 2nd period bell rang and I was off to m y first P.E. class. In 7th grade, it meant changing in front of other girls (I was raised Catholic, need I say more?) So, it’s bad enough to be awkward, chestless and sporting a uni-brow in a girls locker room, but to be new – painful. Little did I know it would get worse.
I hadn’t yet grown in to my over sized brown eyes when someone across the locker room said, “Hey big eyes, what are you staring at?” The entire locker room of girls looked at me. I came back with a zinger, “Uh, nothing.” She walked over to m e (mind you, I’m a lover not a fighter) and said, “Keep those big eyes to yourself. I catch you looking around again and those eyes will be shut so no one can see how ugly they are.” Nice gal, eh? Now here’s the interesting thing. She wasn’t much bigger than I was, but mean, oh was she mean. I didn’t look at that girl for the rest of the year for fear of losing my sight.
I’m telling you this story because perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation either personally or with a child, neighbor, friend. One of the things that I know now is that pain triggers knowledge. Though I’d much rather learn through pleasure, some of my most powerful lessons in life have come from painful experiences. And what I learned from that particular experience is how important it is to extend kindness to others, and stand up for those who can’t find their voice. From that locker room experience, empathy grew.
To this day I will never forget that girls face. From time to time I wonder where she is and what ever happened in her life that made her so angry, so ruthless. My hope is that it was a phase for h er and she is doing work with the Dalai Lama somewhere. O.K. not likely, but I do hope that if she had children, she raised them with kindness and understanding versus anger and ignorance.
As a kid, sometimes you feel so isolated, so alone and when just one person comes to your defense, somehow the world becomes less scary. When I hear about bullying at school, FB and twitter I don’t know how the world has become so ugly, so disconnected from the human heart. Is it simply because there’s more people in the world and ugliness has become acceptable? (Political ads? Really?) Or is it that writing words somehow exempts them from being real. “I didn’t mean it, I was just kidding…” Words written, texted or said can be as painful as a punch in the stomach, a slap across the face.
Each and every day, it’s my goal to extend kindness and generosity. It’s my hope that if someone is in a situation where they need a voice to help them, I can pipe in. With less physical contact and face to face interaction due to technology, it’s more important than ever to positively reach out and touch someone. If I knew where that girl was, I just might reach out and thank her for helping me to become who I am today, big eyes and all.
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it!