I was ten and at a slumber party. My parents rarely ever let me spend the night at a friend’s house, so I was thrilled. We had pizza and a pillow fight. As it got late, one of my friends put a large paper boat on top of her head. It looked like a Vietnamese rice paddy farmer hat – a coolie.
She bowed and said,”Ah so!” Everyone laughed. They thought it was funny. I got angry. I was the only Asian girl there.
Now, decades later, I know that anger is a symptom of sadness and pain. I was hurt because what she did made me feel like an outsider, I felt different from them. But did she mean to do that? No. The pain I felt is what I caused because I assumed (at first) that she was being malicious, but she wasn’t. I projected my feelings and beliefs on her.
If you are suffering (worried, angry, sad, insecure, jealous, etc.), you are causing yourself pain. You are choosing it. I know it sounds over-simplified and not entirely true, but it is. Mental illness aside, if you’re wallowing in self-pity or proud to be a road rager, you’re choosing it.
When I was in fourth grade, I went rollerskating every Friday night. Every Friday night. My mom dropped my sister, brother and me to the rink and left for a couple hours and then picked us up. Sometimes, she stayed and waited, hand bag slung over her arm, watching with worry. (Thanks, mom!) After awhile, my sister and brother didn’t want to go, so I’d be dropped off alone. When I first started, I fell. A lot. I held onto the walls and fell and got back up. Pretty quickly, I gained my balance and before you know it, I was the fastest skater out there. I couldn’t get enough of it. Overhead, we had the disco ball, the strobe lights, the BeeGees! It doesn’t get much better than that, people!
I still go rollerskating now, four decades later. My daughters won’t go. They don’t enjoy it. Neither does my husband. So, once again, I skate alone. I go hard for an hour and then I go home.
I went today and many kids were using this, in record numbers:
One boy using a skatemate fell and his dad ran out on the rink (with shoes on) and picked his son up. He ran behind him, pushed him gently to give him a bit of acceleration and then he left the floor. Not much later, his son would fall again. Out came dad, running to pick his son up. Mind you, his son was about 9, probably a fourth grader. I was impressed by the father’s sprint, his unwavering attention to his son and his intention. Clearly, he cared. But maybe he cared too much about the wrong thing.
I’m pretty sure his son is going to take a long time to learn how to rollerskate. I mean, what with the physical crutch of the skatemate and then the mental crutch of being constantly rescued, he doesn’t get to practice much.
Learning often necessitates frustration, time and yes, pain. But the rewards are well worth it.
Recently, I discovered that Korean refugees from North Korea are actually discriminated against in South Korea!
I couldn’t believe it. Where is the humanity? The abuse and absolute horrific treatment of North Korean civilians by their government is well-known so why would South Koreans greet them with anything but open arms? It’s clear that education and empathy are absent.
Enter an amazing South Korean TV program called, “Now On My Way to Meet You.” It’s an example of using media as a powerful medium for positive social change. The program first aired December of 2011 and, despite the tagline which alludes to “North Korean Beauties,” it does anything but objectify these escapees. You can read more about it and watch a clip here:Cari’s Blog.Basically, these women play games, laugh and recount their stories of life in North Korea for an enormous South Korean audience. The result? An empathetic reaction where South Koreans are understanding and seeing these women as people. The culture is slowly evolving into a supportive, loving one towards their sisters and brothers.
I have numerous cousins, aunts and uncles who live in South Korea and I have visited the country three times. In 1999, I was there for two months on an NSF research grant and I fell in love with the land and people. As news of the ferry disaster unfolded, there was a collective sigh of exasperation, shock, and anger all around me. How could this happen? The students were told to stay put? Why?!
If my father had not decided to immigrate to the United States, I could have been born and raised in South Korea. In fact, if that had happened, I would likely have been married with children a bit earlier (and who knows?) I could have had a high school student on the ill-fated Sewol ferry and be mourning his/her death right now. These connections and possibilities only make me ponder our roles in life. I’m a teacher and I’m proud of it because I can actually impact 32 young people per year. But… can I do more? The producer of “On My Way to Meet You” has created such a critical solution to an enormous problem. What if we all stopped asking why and started asking how? HOW can I help this situation? I think it’s a powerful question.
I have a problem with this definition. I don’t think you have to pick on someone “smaller” or “weaker” than you in order to be a bully. Bullies pick on nice people. Nice people are not weak. I would edit the definition to read:
1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates others due to self-hatred.
The CAUSE of the person’s behavior helps us to understand the reasons behind the action(s). We (society) are more apt to think of ways to prevent bullying or solve the problem if we understand the cause and include it in the definition.
I ask my 32 students (often): “Imagine you wake up to a sunny day and you’re in a great mood. You’re looking forward to your day because you’re going to the carnival or a beach vacation or something great. You’re happy. Do you feel like picking on someone? Do you feel like cutting them down and making them feel badly?” The answer is always no. Then I ask, “What if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? You’re in a bad mood, you feel slightly sick about a test you failed….nothing seems to be going right. How likely is it that you will take it out on your brother? A kid at school you don’t like?” They always get silent and agree that if they’re not happy, they don’t want to make others happy.
THIS is the crux of bullying. Of course, bullying is more than a bad mood, it’s an on-going, consistent state of social terrorism.
My daughter recently received an email written by four girls she believed were her friends. In cowardly fashion (and against school rules), they composed an email during school on a school computer using a school email address. After alienating her at lunch, they went to the computer lab and crafted their message, essentially telling her she “didn’t belong” in their group because she is “different.” They wrote it at 11:30am. She read it at 3:30pm while at home, alone in her room. We’ve all heard the stories of children who read emails or see posted photos or videos and then commit suicide. This form of bullying is insidious, silent and deadly. We must talk to our children (ALL of us!) and stand united in our absolute rejection of this type of behavior. My ten year old daughter cried for two days. “Why? Why? Why?” echoed in her head. I allowed her to cry, but I made it clear that THEY were in the wrong, not her. I was surprised that she truly felt she had done something wrong. She told me she felt ashamed. I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Listen, there is absolutely NO reason you should be ashamed. These four girls, THEY should be ashamed. You did nothing wrong.” She got some sleep and in the morning, she sent me this Internet picture:
I was relieved, but wondered, “Is she really OK?” I had been asking her all week if there was something wrong, she hadn’t talked about her friends in a couple weeks. She said everything was fine. This is not like her, to hide such things from me. With the Internet, smart phones and tablets, it’s all too easy to carry on several conversations at once, even destructive ones. We must remain diligent in our efforts to fight bullying, but it has to start with the bullies. Parents need to be crystal clear in what is acceptable and what is not. One student has apologized, but her did not communicate anything to us or our daughter. She simply allowed her daughter to say, “I’m sorry.” As I told Ava, “Actions speak louder than words.” We shall see how things go.