The school bell rang. It was time to move on to the next lesson.
As I stepped in to the corridor, my friend raced up to me and shouted
“You have got to see this! Come on!”
“I’ve got to get to Science” I said
“NO seriously, come with me. There’s a new girl here and you just HAVE to see her”
We ran towards the corridor where she was likely to be and I spotted her straight away.
She stuck out like a sore thumb. It was obvious she was different.
She was exceptionally tall and thin. She wore a headscarf but differently to the few other girls that wore one. She was trying to exude confidence and look aloof and unconcerned that she was being noticed.
She didn’t fit in.
We laughed and went on our way.
That afternoon, by chance she was in our tutor room. She was in our form for registration.
She sat alone at the front.
I went up to her and asked her name. I noticed she was well spoken.
Time passed and she tried to fit in to the various groups in our year.
One thing was clear…
She didn’t fit in.
She was different. As much as she tried to be like the rest of us, her background, her past experiences and her choices made her stand out.
She knew this, everyone in our year knew this.
Years passed and she was always on the periphery but trying to look like she wasn’t.
We left school and went on to college, she moved back to London.
It was time to make our university choices and I had selected a few in London. She invited me to stay at her house and suggested she would show me around.
Whilst we were talking the first night I stayed over, she stunned me by saying…
“You saved me you know?”
I didn’t understand how I had done that. I felt I had done nothing extraordinary.
She explained that I was the only one that had stopped the other girls from laughing at her, had tried to include her in to conversation and in our group on lunch breaks.
Looking back at my photo album, she is in my photos in our final year at school.
I remember her being around when we were on study leave at the local park with the same group of friends.
I remember being invited to her house and visiting on an occasion and me reciprocating and inviting her to a meal I had arranged for my friends at my house one evening.
That’s all I recall.
But she recalled so much more.
Whatever I did (or didn’t do) had somehow helped her through those difficult teenage years.
I hadn’t gone out of my way to include her. I had just ignored the small protests that other friends had made at her presence.
I had listened when she had a problem or was upset. I made sure of that.
That’s all I did.
Yet now I understand that at that time, it is what she needed.
We lost touch after I got married and she moved abroad.
I think of her and pray she is finally happy.
Happy to be in her own skin.
Happy to not fit in.
There are so many forms of bullying. It’s not always physical or verbal.
It can take place at school, on buses, sporting teams, in neighbourhoods, in public places, the workplace and unfortunately also cyber space.
I feel so much for young people today. When I was at school, there was always a place to get away and find peace. Now you are constantly exposed to people and their thoughts.
Be it via social media, texts or email. There is no getting away and this is why young people today are under a lot more pressure to conform and ‘fit in’ than we were.
This constant exposure explains the rise in depression, self harm and suicides.
It is our responsibility to show compassion and help those people that may be going through a tough time.
I would rather stand out for being different than join in and bully someone.
The victims of bullying and isolation sometimes just need that one person to help them through. One person who tries to understand their plight.
That one person that listens and takes an interest.
Bullying should never be acceptable.
“Simple peck-order bullying is only the beginning of the kind of hierarchical behaviour that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other ‘isms’ that cause so much suffering in the world.”
-Octavia E Butler
We need to encourage the people we spend the most time with to help FIX the problem. NOT be a part of it.
We all need to STOP and think.
If you see an injustice – stop it.
“I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.”
We need to encourage compassionate behaviour… this behaviour begins and is taught first and foremost in our homes.
Let’s begin there and spread the love everywhere 🙂
This post is a part of BUILDING FROM BULLYING #1000Speak. Bloggers from all over the world will be sharing blogs on the topic on March 20th 2015 to help share compassionate stories and make a positive difference.
Visit 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on their blog site and their Facebook Page for more information or to participate.
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