I've been told today, several times, that it's a waste of time trying to stop people from bullying. I've been told that it's part of life and people should just 'suck it up'. I've been told that there are worse problems in the world, like hundreds of thousands of people in slavery. I've been told that it's pointless really, caring in a world where there is so much wrong. I can't not care. I can't fix everything but I can write and ask people to care with me. I can ask people to feel the pain in their hearts too, and see if it will motivate them to take more notice of the suffering of others. It's not that I don't care about all those 'bigger' issues. I'm not blind to the fact that there is war and violence and poverty and hurting, hurting, hurting people in our world. If we don't begin with feeling the pain in our hearts for the people and things close to home...for people in our own homes, our own families, our own schools, our own communities...then how can we ever find the heart to care about those far distant? It has to start in our hearts...and it has to start here.
I went to Hobart today to attend the gathering to celebrate the successes of Chloe's Law...the movement to introduce anti-bullying and specifically anti-cyber-bullying laws into Tasmania. I went because I feel pain in my heart when I think about a young girl so taunted and tortured in her heart that she felt she had no option other than taking her life. Despite the fact that she had family and friends who loved and cared about her, she just couldn't cope with the abuse any longer. It pains me to think that some of the young people that knew her had not the decency to treat her as a feeling human being; a human being with a heart that can bear only so much pain. It worries me terribly that there is a generation, or perhaps two, that have inexplicably moved somehow distant from the ability to have empathy for another human being.
I threw a comment away the other day about children having to learn empathy. A mother of a young child challenged me and said her son, although only three and a half years old, shows empathy readily. He is quick to respond if anyone is sad. He immediately wants to help. He will put an arm around them. I think she's right. My own children always showed great empathy and caring towards other people and towards animals. They seemed to want to take care of everything. How many of you have seen a child rescue a fly or a beetle, or had them plead with you to take care of an injured bird? For most of us, if not all, I think we are born with emotional intelligence...with a natural ability to feel the pain of another being and to want to help ease the pain. So what happens to it? Why does there seem to be a lack of empathy in so many people these days?
Could it be that some of us have become desensitised to distress by watching so many tv shows and movies that are based on murder, torture and violence. Have we ceased to understand that these things are not right? Think about it. If you invite visions of murder and violence into your home on a daily basis, via tv or even X Box and video games (I'm not right up with the lingo, but you know the things I'm talking about here)...if you do that, isn't it reasonable to imagine that you might become desensitised to the horror of it all. Isn't it reasonable to imagine that perhaps those things become somehow more 'acceptable' to you? I wonder.
There is quite a movement afoot now in education to introduce what is called 'social learning' to our students. Ethics are now part of the curriculum. It's great that we are teaching our young people to think more about why we do what we do, and what works well for community and what hurts community. We're all in this together. We all need each other. Our world is not a series of bubbles that we all live in and so are not touched by the ills of the rest. We are all connected. We are all one. When we hurt each other we hurt ourselves too. Social learning. How to work with, live with, cooperate with, collaborate with others to create a functional society in which every individual is valued for what they bring. We are all different; we are all the same. We can begin to feel empathy for others by starting to look for what is the same. "How is that other person like me?" we might ask.
I can't do much. I can't make anyone do anything they don't want to do. But I can ask you to slow down and look at other people in a way that asks...how are they like me? If you can do that, you will find yourself beginning to think that others might have the same sorts of human frailties that you have yourself. Yes, you have them...we all do. We look for what is different and then we fear. We can't help it unless we make a conscious effort to change that and look for what is similar. You could start with the fact that you and indeed everyone else is human. We all belong to the human family. We all need to be accepted and loved as we are. Mostly we want some sort of recognition that lets us know we're worthwhile. Some people don't think they are, and I think sometimes they're the ones that hit out in anger about that. Someone hasn't let them know that they're worthwhile and worth loving...and they haven't figured it out for themselves yet. Please, if you can't love everyone in your life, if you can't love everyone around you, at least be kind.
Some of the speakers today talked about kindness. Go away from here today with kindness in your heart they said. I read somewhere a sign that said "Kindness is my religion". What a great religion-a religion that needs no church, no priests, no bishops, no offering plate, no guilt, no rules, no sin, no threat of eternal fire...just the simple recognition of the fact that we can choose in all situations to be kind. Imagine if all of us everywhere made it our life's work to be kind in everything we did. What a new and different world we would wake up to. I know I'm not perfect, and I don't expect any of you to be either, but if you could just keep those two little words 'be kind' in the front of your mind...like a little voice reminding you all day long...and I'll try to do the same...maybe we can make a difference. Like the butterfly effect, the small changes we make in our lives affect those around us. Your small act of kindness ( a simple smile or holding a door open for someone) may just inspire the recipient to do the same. There are loads of kindness movements around the world at different points in time. There are Random Acts of Kindness, Free Hugs, and all sorts of others. Why do so many of these keep popping up on Youtube and Facebook and other places. I suspect it's because there are a lot of people out there who believe it is the only way we can mend ourselves and our planet. I refuse to share things about the vile things people do. We are all too well aware of those. Let's make a point of sharing with each other snippets of hope and encouragement to do the little good we can...and hope that the seeds we plant will grow a forest of caring.
If this motivates you in any way to change the way you've been living, please let me know. If you've ever been a bully, I'd like to know what it was that led you to that behaviour...did you lack love for yourself? I'd love to hear your story. In the meantime, I'll keep listening to my own heart...and if it tells me I need to care, then I'll be doing my best. Love to you all out there. Be kind to yourself by being kind to others.
I wrote a post last year after reading about Chloe's death. Read it here if you'd like to.
The Chloe's Law petition to the Australian Senate can be signed here