We all want a happy ending. The older I get, the more I see happy endings come true and the more I see tragic conclusions to lives that have barely begun.
I think of our own story, and I am forever grateful that I not only have an opportunity to share it, but it is one which includes my daughter beside me. I am not sure I could carry the banner for bullying if I had lost her because the cruelty of the world was more than she could bear. And yet, I see it happening around me, and I sometimes feel myself drowning in the sadness of others. Their stories are ones which should never have happened.
My own brother took his life, so I know the reality of a violent loss and the ache in my heart wondering if I could have done something to prevent it. But two losses very well could have silenced me. I think the pain would have been more than I could carry, much less share with others. It makes me wonder what I would do if faced with the same desperation. I am every day grateful that it is not my journey. The walk I am on, though, has included my brother’s suicide and deep depression of my only child at the age of 8. Both of these people I love were bullied, and we experienced two very different outcomes. One chose to leave the world, and the other fought her way out.
Nearly every day someone contacts me with similar stories. They are usually in crisis by the time they find me and they are desperate for answers. They need someone to tell them it is all going to be ok and are hopeful that I have the advice they are looking for. More often than not, I can’t give them what they need.
This past week two very sad stories came to me. One was the suicide of a very young man. The second one was from a boy who was pushed so far and felt so desperate that he threatened his bully. He was taken into custody. One life was lost and the other is most certainly in a dark place. Both break my heart. And in both cases, I feel sure they made the only decision they thought they could to escape the pain. Neither outcome is what we would have wanted for them or for their families.
And yet here we are. These aren’t isolated stories, and these aren’t coming from some obscure place across the country. These are our stories. Stories from my own community. I have probably seen these boys in the grocery store or at a restaurant, and while our paths may have crossed, our stories didn’t connect until they reached this sad place.
It brings me full circle and back to our own story. I know Morgan’s story could have ended very differently. I think about it often and I still worry about her. While she is certainly more confident and knows so much more than she did four years ago, the worst of the cruelty is likely ahead of her.
I wonder sometimes how we got here. How did the world get so lonely for so many? How can we continue to turn our backs to the cruelty and the hatred that lives in the souls of so many of our kids. . . and in our own souls? And, how can we not only teach our kids to stand up to the injustices of the world, but how do we, ourselves, learn to cry out when we see it?
I worry about how much any of our kids can take. That worry makes me realize that I cannot turn my back on the stories of these boys or from Morgan’s. There are always lessons to be learned and regrets along the way. There are “what ifs” and “could have beens.” And I am reminded that there are families who will go to bed tonight without a child. We have to help more kids fight their way out. They need to know they have advocates at both school and at home. They need to know we believe them.
This world can only become better if we make it so. We can’t just think about how terrible bullying is. We have to stand up and speak out and find ways to change the way we treat one another. We can no longer turn our backs and hope someone else makes this better. We ARE those somebodys. I remember reading that, when we look at history, it wasn’t armies that changed the injustices of the world. It was individuals like King, Mandella, and Parks. It was one person who inspired others to have the courage to stand up with them. I know these people inspired me, and I hope they inspired you enough to know that we can change a culture and impact a generation. It will require more than a few voices. It will take an army of citizens who can see a different world and who are willing to fight for it.
I am a believer that there are more kind people in this world than not, but I also believe that we are letting the cruel and hateful drown out our voices. They are in charge only because we allow them to be, and it is because too often their voices are the only ones being heard. It is time for you to lift up your voice.
We all want a better story. How the story ends is ours to write.