Good morning, Mini-Women. Thanks so much for all your valuable comments on witnessing bullying. They were one of two things last week that made me more determined than ever to make the bullying trilogy the best it can possibly be. Knowing that you, girls I talk with a lot and care deeply about, are seeing this go on and don't quite know what to do about it -- that's huge.
Here's the other thing that happened.
Friday I went to the Nashville Public Library with my two year old granddaughter Maeryn (have I mentioned her before? tee-hee!) to see a puppet show. Afterwards we hung out in the children's picture books area where there are miniature couches and tables and stuff for the little kids to play with. Mae is kind of shy but she's learning how to make friends, so when she spotted two really pretty little girls, about 3 and 4 years old, she pulled a ballerina book off the shelf and put it on the table in front of where they were sitting. It was SO adorble, because she said, so shyly, "Here you go, kids." The older of the two snatched up the book and said, "What is this? Is this a crazy book?" Maeryn didn't quite know what to say to that; I wouldn't have either. A crazy book? What the Sam Hill? The other little girl looked at the book and said, "Crazy book," and then the two of them proceeded to flip through it, upper lips curled. When they reached the end -- in about five seconds -- the older one tossed it back on the table and said, "That's a crazy book." Maeryn ran her little hand over the top of her head and backed away, right into me.
My heart broke in two.
I offered to read it to her but she just turned away and went off to play by herself. Within minutes she was happily joining in a race among the shelves with her boy cousins, but I was still ready to cry. And then I was ready to find those two little minxes' mother and ask her what kind of parent she was. Where WAS their mom, anyway? Not that it mattered. They probably learned that kind of behavior from her. Seriously, nobody is BORN mean, and few get there before at least age five or six. I wanted to go straight to my daughter, who was helping one of the cousins find a book, and tell her that we need to protect Maeryn at all times from anyone who's going to hurt her little feelings . . .
And then it came to me: we can't. What we can do is prepare her. And that's what we're about here, even for those of you who are homeschooled and haven't witnessed that much bullying in your lives so far.
As I said in our last post, we're beginning with the Bystanders because all of us will definitely witness bullying at some time in our lives, and probably before we're 12 years old. And because knowing what to do when we see meanness happening to other people is really, really hard. You've discovered that yourselves:
* AMELIA: you find yourself lowering yourself to their level as they turn on you for trying to help (Yep. That old "eye for an eye" thing. Sometimes adults will even say, "If she bullies you, bully her back!" Uh, hello -- no!)
* MARY: when someone tries to stop it, the mean girl turns to her and says, "Well then, I'll say that about YOU." (It is SO hard not to be intimidated by that. Bullies really think they're powerful)
* SARAH: even if someone says something to them (including a teacher) they just keep doing it (WELCOME, SARAH!) (It can definitely be frustrating)
* JESUS FREAK: if it's the guy you like, who likes you back, it's hard to call him on his bad treatment of somebody, especially if that somebody is treating YOU bad. (Kind of like that knight in shining armor coming to protect you, right? It's hard to turn down the chance to be the princess rescued from the dragon!)
* BAYLEE: teachers don't step in unless you ask them or it gets physical; that's depressing. (It sure is, and we're going to do a whole post on teachers and bullying. Maybe even more than one)
* BAYLEE: if the victim doesn't even get that he or she is being bullied, why bother (. . . except that the people doing it know they're doing it, so there's that)
* YOOMIN: it's like a never-ending cycle that's hard to break (Absolutely. That's where we're going next)
* MORGAN: people will bully you BECAUSE you do nice things for others. (yeah, what's that about?)
Even as we figure out why we DON'T stand up for people who are being bullied, we can see why we SHOULD:
* People being mean to other people is just plain wrong. If you saw someone kick your dog, wouldn't you at least tell your mom? So, um, isn't it just as important to either try to stop meanness to a person or report it?
* Just because you aren't "involved" doesn't mean you aren't "responsible." If you saw somebody with a gun go into a mini-market, would you just shrug your shoulders and go, "Oh, well, I'm not going into that store so it's not my problem"? Or would you tell an adult or call 911 or yell for other people not to go in there? Wouldn't you feel horrible if somebody bad happened that you might have been able to stop? It's really no different with bullying.
Jesus said that. "This is war," he said in Matthew 12:30, "and there is no neutral ground . . . If you're not helping, you're making things worse." (The Message)
* There are way more bystanders than there are bullies and victims put together. One of the things bullies have going for them is that they have everybody else convinced that they're all-powerful. But when you get right down to it, they don't have any more power than anybody else. Seriously, SIX girls who want to help can't stand up to ONE girl who wants to hurt? (we'll talk more about what that looks like in a later post -- for now, it DOESN'T mean you form your own bullying gang!)
So, really, it is NOT okay to just stand by and let bullying go on. We don't get to pick which parts of the Gospel we're going to practice and which we're not. It is just as important for us to learn from the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) as it is for us to believe that Jesus blessed the little children (Matthew 19:13-15)
So what now? Your next step as GIA Agents (that's God In Action, for those of you who are new) is this:
For the next two days, (today and Wednesday) be super-observant about all kinds of bullying around you -- whether it's among your siblings, your classmates, friends, even on TV. Either keep a notebook with you to jot down examples or try to remember them and write them all out when you have your quiet time with God every day. If you feel like you can help somehow, do that, but for now the important thing is to see how many examples of meanness you witness in a thirty-six hour period.
When you comment, (1) tell us whether you're seeing a lot, some, or not much at all. (2) give us an example or two. (3) share with us how you felt and what you thought when you saw someone being mean to somebody else. And finally (4) describe how YOU would feel if you were the victims you saw being bullied, even in small ways.
Next time, with the help of your Big Sisters from the In Real Life blog, we'll talk about the bullying cycle that YOOMIN mentioned and how you can help break it from the outside. You are strong, brave mini-women and I know you can do this.