As I let this ever-present topic consume all of my brain capacity, as the details of the local incident come to the surface, and as the social media pages run rampant with bits and pieces of story that may or may not be true, I’m left to digest what I know of my own experiences with bullying in my community.
Part of my thinks, half of the people at the school board meeting last night were bullies to the members on the school board. I understand these people are upset, but is there anything the school board really could have done to resolve the issue before it happened? I wonder how the parents of both the victim and the perpetrators are handling all of this coming out into the eyes of the entire state. I know some of the parents of those kids. I know some of the siblings of those kids. I know none of them are perfect.
There are moments, bits and pieces of what was said at the meeting that replay over and over. A pastor spoke up and told the 100-plus-person audience to return to God and seek refuge in him and his word. That’s a load of bupkiss if you ask me. Too much of our country is already reliable on an invisible god that will not reach down and do the work for these humans (because, in my opinion, that god doesn’t exist)…and so, there are many a person left thinking that “God will provide. God will lead the way. God will do everything for us,” when really, it’s we who have to do the heavy lifting of talking to our students and sons and daughters about how to treat another human being with dignity and respect.
I think back to my own house, where I grew up. I saw violence and anger quite a few times. I watched my father get angry over the simplest of things; he would lash out at my older brothers, or, if my parents thought I was asleep, they would argue in the kitchen. Their angry words would echo up our stairs, and since my bedroom was at the end of the hall, more often than not, as quiet as they tried to be, I would hear every word. I would slowly walk down the hallway, and sit at the top of the stairs, gripping the newel post. I had nightmares for years. I hated sleeping upstairs alone for the longest time. That was the model I was given on how to react to things that intimidated, scared, or offended me– anger, words, threats, intimidation, violence.
Did I let that anger get the best of me sometimes? Yes. Did I push it onto other people in the form of hurtful words or a push, or a punch? Yes, I did. I remember getting into a fist fight with my friend, Meagan, in sixth grade. I remember calling a boy on the playground dumb in maybe first or second grade. His name was Caleb, and he retaliated by climbing up the playground equipment where I was at, gripped my shirt with both of his hands around the cuff of my neck and shook me, telling me not to say that. That worked. I stopped. I remember in high school, making fun of a girl, Stephanie. I made fun of her size, and her name. I was a bully because that’s what someone did to me. I regret doing those things every day.
Regardless, how would “God” help me to understand how to act and react towards people? Some would say it was the mentors I followed and the role models I looked up to who helped me to see how we truly should act towards others. And some would say God brought those people into my life so I could see how God wanted me to act. That takes credit away from the amazing people who did have the respect and dignity of being humane towards others. I’d like to give them credit rather than some benevolent god.
The community has shifted and soured and taken sides. Good and bad. But, no solutions have been resolved over the situation. Bullying still occurs. It still happens everyday, whether at school or a workplace or at home. There is a certain level of having to figure out how to manage the situation by yourself. There are times we all respond with impatience, anger, and misunderstanding. There are times we respond with kindness and understanding and enough of an unbiased opinion/solution to the situation to where things can progress in a more positive way.
I’ve been finding inspiration in the things I’ve been reading lately.
I just finished a book by Rupi Kaur. One of her poem reads like this:
is an easy lazy thing
but to love
but not all are
willing to practice
Practice love, patience, kindness, understanding. Gather information before jumping off conclusion cliffs. Don’t compare your journey through a tough topic to your own journey– they will never be the same. And remember the solutions to those issues are up to us (not God) on how we handle and receive them.