In many ways, I’ve been blessed. Very blessed. I had all of my grandparents until after I was married…my parents just died in the last few years…and my aunts and uncles were all long-lived. I have experienced few losses of the types many of my friends have.
However, I have experienced the loss of a grandchild…on his 21st birthday. It was the result of an unwise decision he made, a decision whose consequences he did not fully understand…and it killed him. I have never forgotten that.
There have been a number of news stories this week that have brought back a remembrance of that pain…of the loss of a young person whose life is ended before it really has a chance to begin.
Yes, I know it happens sometimes through foolish decisions. Sometimes it happens because of situations out of a person’s control.
And sometimes it happens because of us.
Because we are too scared of those who are “different” in some way. Because we are too willing to pass off bullying as simple childhood behavior. Because we are not willing to stand in support of those who are hurting and who need to know others care. Because we are not willing to reconsider the prejudices we have been reared with. Because too often our religious teachings–instead of teaching us to love unconditionally–encourage us to love those who are different only if they change to meet our criteria.
It is tragic whenever it happens.
And it has to stop.
We have to start seeing each other as real people…people with hopes, dreams, fears just like we have. When we see someone being bullied because of perceived differences…or being ostracized because of who they love…we have to start being there to walk their journey with them.
It doesn’t mean that we’re going to agree 100% with everything someone does. That’s not going to happen with anyone.
But if we stand aside when a child reaches the point where death is preferable to the hatred and bullying they face every day, then we are complicit. If we are willing to allow children to be kicked onto the street because of who they love, we are as guilty as those who kick them out. If we are not willing to stand up and say “We need to look again at our religious teachings” if they cause us to fear those who are different and build walls of division, then we are also part of those who build those walls.
It has to stop. One death from bullying is one death too many…and there have been far too many this week…this month…this year.