Recently, we lost another innocent young person to suicide caused by bullying.  Brandy Vela was a victim of relentless emotional torture at the hands of cowards who chose to hide behind the internet.  I’ve read many articles and posts and even shared her story on the Kindness Matters Facebook page.  Most people who commented in all of those places where compassionate, heartbroken or outraged.  A few were not.  It is those few who I am speaking to now.

Some have said that those who are bullied should get thicker skin. 

How exactly does a person do that?  Emotions and empathy cannot be taught or untaught – they are just part of a person’s makeup.  To say that someone needs to change who they are in order to accommodate the desires or shortcomings of another is both ridiculous and asinine.  It’s true that many bullied children are highly sensitive and gentle souls.  Why on Earth would we, as a society, ever want to take that away from them?  Would we really prefer to live in a world populated only by people who have walls built around their hearts and who are callous and mean spirited when others don’t meet some arbitrary standard they’ve set for worthiness?

Some have said that by staying on social media and keeping a cell phone, then the victims asked for it.

This is idiotic, Puritanical reasoning.  I bet these same people think if a girl wears a short skirt, then she’s asking to be raped too.  Or if a boy is openly gay, then he’s asking to be beat up.  And why should the victims be the one who has to change?  When Peyton was in elementary school, his principal thought the best solution was to change Peyton’s teachers so he wouldn’t be in class with his bully. I put my foot down – I wasn’t going to let Peyton’s life be upended when he’d done nothing wrong.  I held my ground and the school moved the other boy to a different teacher.

Some have said that the parents of the bullied child are to blame for not teaching the child to love his/herself. 

Let me tell you straight from the horse’s mouth – that is bullshit.  I told my Peyton every single day that I loved him.  I was involved in his school and social life.  I tried to help him navigate a world full of people who are intentionally cruel, although neither of us understood it.  Children who die by suicide don’t do it because they don’t love themselves or because they feel unloved.  They do it in order to escape the pain of their everyday life.  No matter how much a person loves themselves, if life (i.e. the bully) continues to beat you down, you will break.

Some have said that the victims should just get off of social media.

Sure, that’s really easy.  Right?  Clearly, those who have made this suggestion do not have teenage children in the 21st century.  Trying to keep a child from the internet is like trying to stop water from flowing downhill.  It is, in a word, impossible.  If they aren’t online to interact with their friends, then they’re using it to keep up with events in school or to communicate with teachers and coaches.  Social media is permanently woven into the fabric of our lives and it’s not going away any time soon.

Some have said “we need to do something” but none seem to take it farther than a post on social media.

If you do feel that WE need to do something, then DO SOMETHING other than type a few words on a keyboard.  Call your local representatives and find out what is being done in your state to punish those who bully others.  Call your local school district and find out what programs they have in place to help bullied children and those that bully.  Go to the newspaper or T.V. station and find out what they’re doing to bring this issue to the forefront of the public’s attention.  If nothing is being done or if you feel like more should be, then find a way to make that happen.  Start a petition (not an online one – those are a waste of time), start a letter writing campaign with your friends, family, church and neighbors or volunteer to mentor kids at a local school (not just the bullying victims, but the bullies too).  You cannot expect the world to change if you don’t help make it a reality.  Saying “we need to do something” then expecting everyone else to do the hard work simply won’t do. Someone has to be the one to take that first step.

As we move into the holiday season, we’re bombarded with images of happy families, sounds of joyous carolers and wishes of Peace on Earth.  This year, instead of being blinded by the sparkly lights and tinsel of the season, take some time to really – I mean REALLY– look at your world.  Strive to move those Norman Rockwell images from fantasy to reality — for yourself, for your family and for every single human being around you.  Elie Wiesel once said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” and Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Both very wise men who refused to sit on the sidelines to only bemoan the travesties they saw around them.  Now is your chance to try to be more like them.  I encourage you to be the person who is willing to take a stand against bullying in your community.  Be the person who knows that change will only come when YOU decide that you’ve had enough.  Be the person who will set aside personal comfort and complacency in order to make the world a better place for everyone.

Today is the day that you get to decide what your contribution to peace will be.

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