You’re fifteen and it’s the second week of your sophomore year of high school, which you’re still trying to get used to. You’re super short, shy, quiet, a little insecure and frankly, it doesn’t really change a ton when you get older. Especially the shortness. But, you’re kind, considerate; with a good head on your shoulders and you have a great group of friends who will help you start on your path to becoming the person you were meant to be.
You have no idea how lucky you were during your school years. You had good friends, you weren’t ever bullied, besides your guy friends making fun of how short you were, but no one was ever down right cruel to you. You should be grateful every day for this, and pay attention to those around you who might not have it so great. Because those people are there, even if you don’t think they are. People in your classes, students walking down the hall. You never know what someone is going through behind the fake smiles you see at school everyday.
I want to tell you about a situation that will happen to you soon. There are a few situations like this that you’ll witness, but this one will stand out more than the others. You’ll be at your locker getting some books before you go to your next class, when a girl will walk by. You know this girl. You know her name. You know people don’t like her for one reason or another, but you’ve never had a problem with her. She’s very shy, very short and plump, and you can tell she doesn’t care much about fashion, but then again, neither do you. You were never great friends with this girl, but you were kind to each other anyway, like people should be. On this particular day though, you’ll look up when this girl walks by and notice how fast she’s walking. Her head will be down, her hair hanging in her face, her shoulders slouched like she’s holding up a terrible burden. Then you’ll see the cause of her distress. The two boys trailing behind her, singing a horrible, degrading song they made up with her name in it as she hurries down the hall. People will stare. They’ll see the tears in her eyes as she hugs her books to her chest, wishing she was anywhere but in that hallway with those boys. Yet no one will say a thing.
You’ll want to do something. You’ll feel awful as you stand there watching her move further away until she disappears around the corner with those boys not far behind. You’ll want to follow them and tell those boys to leave her alone. Make them stop hurting her and making her feel so worthless. No one should be treated like that.
But you’ll stand there, holding your books in your arms, staring down the hall, too terrified to do anything about it. Partly because you’re a five foot nothing sophomore and those boys are around six foot tall seniors. Partly because you’re scared they’ll bully you instead and no one will come to your rescue. Partly because you’re too shy and you’re not good with confrontation. Whatever the reason, I want you to put the consequences of what could happen to you, out of your head. Don’t think, just do. Tell someone what’s happening to her, because I guarantee it wasn’t the first time. Tell anyone. A teacher, a counselor, the principal. There are so many ways you can put a stop to this girl’s torment and put a smile back on her face instead of tears.
Because that moment of you standing there watching the three of them walk down the hall will haunt you for years to come. The look on her face, the song they sang. It will replay in your head, some fifteen years later and you’ll regret even then, not stepping up and helping her that day.
I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal. Especially since you’ll always be kind to this girl, before and after this incident, but telling someone about her being bullied may save her years and years of heartache. And you might even find yourself a new good friend.
Step up. Be brave. Be kind to those who everyone seems to hate, even when they’ve done nothing wrong to deserve it. Be true to who you are and don’t be afraid to stand up for someone when they’re being beaten down, physically or emotionally. Use your voice and change someone’s life for the better. Even if it seems impossible to do so.
I pledge to take a stand against bullying each and every day. #OneVoice
~ Chantele Sedwick, author of Not Your Average Happy Ending
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