Friday, December 3, 2010

questions of merit and clarity.

October is Bully Prevention month.

Two and a half weeks ago, I returned home from Seattle, where I took part in four days of Olweus Bully Prevention Program training.  In all, I was away for five days, and they were the longest, mentally draining, at times emotionally exhausting days I have experienced since before having children. 

While on my train ride to the north, thoughts of what ifs began to unearth from the deepest pits in my mind.  Will they ask why I was there, and if so, could I answer effectively without any quiver in my voice?  Had I healed enough, and was I ready to teach on this issue that for so many years bound my heart in rivets of lies, and caused me turmoil so great that I was unsure if the depression would ever allow me to be normal again?  I wondered if I was qualified to sit in a room with teachers, principals, administrators, even authors and those who follow their names with M. Ed. , Ed. D?  Would the emotions heave onto my heart and make speaking unbearable, or would I want to leave all together like I did in college while the other soon-to-be teachers talked frivolously and ignorantly about teens and rights of passage?

Suddenly, I was questioning if my own experience had any merit, if my heart for the kids who deal with such issues matter enough, or if my personal experience is enough to get my foot in the door, and in front of the teachers who may or may not think their school has a problem, or in front of the teachers who really don't get paid enough to act as social workers on top of their long list of other teacherly duties, but who feel it their ethical obligation to know how to intervene when they witness or hear of peer abuse among students.

When I realized what was happening, I consciously pulled myself from the negative self-talk of pre-destined failure and inadequacy, and looked north.  I set all the had-beens aside and moved my mind from the realm that I've lived, and away from the feelings that still manage to creep in like the coldest gusts of air that move in from some distant door left ajar, to keep moving; to press on in these moments of not enough answers, and embrace them, and accept them as part of reaching my destination.

God knew I needed some reinforcement, and offered clarity in the softest voice.  We had just been shuffled around into new tables of five and were to begin the next exercise.  After a few quiet moments of reflection, we were to share any experiences of bullying or being bullied in school, and what it felt like when we were at that age...The table leader shared her most vivid memory and then asked me if anything had come to my mind?  For a moment, I floundered.  I have stories falling out of my back pockets, the question was really, which one to choose?  I grappled for a moment, finally choosing one that would suffice.  You'd think I'd be okay with making an example out of myself, especially at a bully prevention training, since I do quite a bit of writing on the subject, but divulging such experiences to strangers, on the spot nonetheless, was quite uncomfortable.

After a short break, the woman who had been sitting next to me returned to the table and said, "I think that was really brave of you to share your experience."  I was surprised and caught of guard to be called brave, and thanked her.  Then she told me that her son had committed suicide four years before as the result of having been bullied.  I was stunned.  Her words pierced my ears and heart in an instant, yet she told her truth with such blatant honesty in the softest voice.  She continued to talk, and I attempted to add in where I could, to be polite, but really, I felt as though I'd slammed into a wall.  You don't know how much you don't know, until someone unexpectedly hands you unfathomable pain, in one sentence.  We exchanged a few more words, briefly explaining each our passion on the subject of bully prevention before the session began again. 

I was still stunned.  After a few more minutes, the reality of the heartache and the loss and the passion that sat next to me, caused my heart to wrench.  I wanted to release the emotions that had filled my chest in an ongoing sob.  I wanted to make a quick exit and return another time, when the emotions and the reality were detached from the program and the workbooks, but I couldn't.  So I gathered myself up with thoughts of her strength.

Meeting Ann, was a blessing, and an undeniable connection was made.  Her story and her strength encourage me in my journey and in my passion for bully prevention because it is kids like her Jeremiah that no longer have their voice to stand against bullying, but who deserve to be stood for.  It is these kids and those who are currently dealing with peer abuse who make it easier to pray for more courage, confidence, persistence and tirelessness to do this work, to prevent others from having to deal with peer abuse, and make something of the memories that would otherwise remain the colorless time in my life.   

You can stand for the silent too, and read more about Jeremiah's Hope here.

October 22nd is Jeremiah's Hope for Kindness Day.  
In memory of those who have dealt with peer abuse and those who are still dealing with peer abuse, please wear yellow.  It was Jeremiah's favorite color.



Ana* December 3, 2010 at 7:03 AM  

This post is touching, thanks for sharing!

Bullying has become a major problem in the US school department. I never experienced it in HS, but I did experience it as an adult at the college level this semester. It was the worse experience ever. It brought my confidence level to -1, almost made me drop out of college, I cried everyday for almost 3 months asking myself why this group of people had picked on me and made rumors for no reason. I even considered suicide, but after a lot of involvement, prayer and patience from my family's part I can say I am ok. I survived it and this is now part of my past.

Many young lives with great potential have been lost due to bullying. You're fighting for a great cause, not only fighting but saving lives. Thanks for being a voice for the silent and a hero for the many you will save.

A Serenade for Solitude December 3, 2010 at 9:48 AM  

Ana- I am so sorry to hear of your recent ordeal. It is hard to hear that people can be so senseless and reckless with others emotions. I am happy to hear that you had the support that you needed and the strength to look beyond your circumstance, and not let it define you. Hugs. -cbm

Shelley December 3, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

Wow. I don't have many words in response to your post but I thank you for writing it. A lot to digest. What a powerful experience for you and story for us. Thank you for letting us in and sharing.

Tricia Lee Riggio December 3, 2010 at 8:45 PM  

All I can say is this:
1. I had no idea any of this was ever going on...I feel like a jerk for not knowing.
2. Don't ever feel that your story is any less than the next persons, if it impacted you...that's all that matters...any level of bullying is terrible. I love ya. I wish I could give you a squeeze.

A Serenade for Solitude December 4, 2010 at 6:53 PM  

Shelley--thanks for coming by and leaving your comment. No words--it is okay. It's not the sort of topic that renders the most conversation. I appreciate your comment. :)

Trish- Don't feel like a jerk!! I appreciate the encouragement...sometimes I need to write it out to move forward. Thanks for listening. ;)

Lizzie December 10, 2010 at 7:57 PM  

Sweet Little Cassie (as I will always think of you... no matter what!),
You need to continue this work, if not for yourself, but for others that cannot yet find their voice.

liz mclean

A Serenade for Solitude December 10, 2010 at 9:04 PM  

Liz-your message warms my heart. So much that I might print it off to remind myself of what you've said. each. day. Thanks. xx

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
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