When I was a kid, I was the victim of bullying. It started in Peru, where I was a target because I was Jewish and very awkward. I remember slander on the blackboards and having to pay other girls to be my friend with stickers and American candy.
I was thrilled to move to the United States; there I would make friends and escape being ridiculed. When I got here, I was the perfect target again -- this time because I was awkward, didn't understand American customs and because I barely spoke English. I would ride my bike home, throw myself on the bed and cry. There were moments, when I seriously wondered if it might be better to just end it all. Thankfully, I stuck it out. Junior High School was 100 % better. More friends, still teasing, but, I was able to escape it.. and as I learned to adapt (and learned how to get rid of my accent) in this country, I became less of a target. High School was again 100% better - and I grew confident in my ability to make friends (good ones that I could call when I had problems - friends that last a lifetime).. and even though I was heavy.... I stopped being teased for my weight. College, again better, and I have to tell you that life since just keeps getting more exciting, challenging and yes, better.
But, when I think back to that little girl who moved to the United States in elementary School -- I am so very grateful that the internet was not around! These days, a kid can't escape bullying by just going home and throwing themselves on their bed -- between Facebook, Twitter, Texting, cell phones, etc... bullying has taken on a whole new level of gruesomeness. How are kids to find a safe place when they are bombarded from every angle? I really don't know... But, I do hope that as adults who got a taste of what they are going through (because truly -- I can't even imagine the degree of bullying that is now possible), we keep our eyes open and stay diligent around the kids in our lives.
My hope is also that those same kids who see themselves attacked by bullies on the internet also turn to the internet to find comfort. The "It gets better" campaign that Dan Savage started is a perfect example. It was started as a reaction to the frightening rate of suicide among gay teenagers who were bullied - yet, it truly applies to anyone who is suffering at the hands of stupid stupid people that get their jollies out of making others suffer.
The first time I heard about this campaign, I immediately went on YouTube and looked up some of the videos and wept. The theatre community (did you know that there are gays in theater? Gasp!) has come out in droves in support as well with videos and monetary help to the Trevor Project, and now that Google has done a commercial -- I'm never going to be able to watch TV without crying again.
So, today I say -- It gets better.. thank you Dan Savage and thank you Google.
(warning: you'll need a hanky).