Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The New Road

My daughter is being bullied at school. Today it’s her freckles and the shape of her face. Tomorrow it will be something else.

She gazes out the window on the ride home. I see her eyes fill up.

We live in a time when anything remotely different about you is like bloody water to sharks. They swarm and attack and leave you there to doubt your significance.

Ally’s toothy grin has always filled up the room. She owns an aura of spring in radiant bloom. Her spirit is highly carbonated.

She was a baby who woke up happy, and has stayed that way for 11 years. Until now. Until middle school, the bootcamp of K through 12. If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere, I think to myself.

A mother's instinct is to shield. Protect. Fight. I struggle with my inner Rocky Balboa. I feel compelled to act. It will only make it worse, my daughter pleads.

Bullies are pervasive. Not exclusive to middle school. There is no demographic profile, no limit to age or education or occupation. They’re on every playground and in every corporation, in our government and in our churches. They exist on Facebook and Myspace and Club Penguin. And they reside in our families.

It begs the question: Haven’t we evolved beyond this? Why do we teach our young how to get ahead, but not how to get along?

What have we learned from Columbine and the countless acts of violence perpetrated by children and teens who have been bullied? How many kids can we afford to lose to suicide because we didn’t want to be called a rat?

Taking down the bullies is going to require a paradigm shift. A movement of individual acts. An achievement in courage and fortitude.

America is at a crossroads. We can either continue looking the other way or take a stand and carve a new road to a place where differences are respected and our children can feel good inside.

And stay that way.