personal reflections on human rights...and other stuff

A Letter to My Sons: Promise me kindness


Dear Alexandre, Dear Sam,

The other day a few boys not much older than you did a horrible thing to someone. While sitting in their school bus, they insulted, ridiculed, and taunted a 68 year-old school bus monitor until she cried. The whole thing was captured on another boy’s cellphone camera and uploaded to YouTube.

It’s painful to watch the video. The woman stays quiet for the most part until finally she can’t hold herself back and tells the children how painful it is to have them say these bad things to her. She is not angry, she is just hurting. In some ways the woman reminded me of Grandmaman. Maybe it was the way she sat quietly, head held high and trying to ignore the words she was hearing. I was reminded that the only time I ever saw your Grandmaman cry was when someone else hurt her with words.

People who saw the video have expressed their shock but have also expressed their sympathy and emptied their pockets, eager to help the woman and give her money. I’m sure she is overwhelmed by the support she has received since the incident took place. However comforting that is, the words spoken can never be taken away, and she’ll probably remember them forever.

In some ways this incident brings out the worst and best in all of us. I know you’ve been bullied and it hurts. I was bullied as well when I was a kid, sometimes because I had an English name in a French school, other times I really don’t know why – some kids just picked on me. There was one time when two older kids in high school beat me up as my friends looked on. My friends were probably shocked at what was happening, so I can’t really blame them for just looking and not doing anything. It didn’t last long either; I was beaten up and left on the ground in less than a minute. But still, when you’re being bullied, it’s nice to know someone’s going to come and help you out.

When I think of the kids who insulted the woman on the bus, I wonder why the boy taking the 10-minute video didn’t say at one point, “Stop.” It’s great that so many people have seen the video, and I hope it raises awareness about bullying, how kids can sometimes be incredibly cruel without remorse, and how badly we sometimes treat our elders. But there wouldn’t have ever been a video if the boy with the cellphone or anyone else had told the other kids to stop. Scream stop, tell the bus driver what’s going on, sit next to the woman and defend her, tell her it’s OK and those hurtful words mean nothing. Just do something.

The kindness we have – and I have to still believe that every one of us has some kindness in our hearts – can’t be silenced by our fear of the consequences from standing up for someone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger or someone you know, when you see a person being hurt by others, just act. Do something to change the situation. Think of what any superhero would do. People are about to be hurt; does Batman or Iron Man pull out their cellphone to record the incident? No, they don’t even think twice, they just do something to stop it. I know they’re only comic book characters, but their appeal lies in a deep-rooted fantasy that we should be more like them. Strip away the Bat-gizmos and flying suits of armor, they act because it’s the right thing to do. Promise me you’ll unleash your kindness if ever you see someone being hurt. That’s all anyone should ever do.

Je t’aime Alexandre, je t’aime Sam,
Daddy



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