Everything about the subject of bullying breaks my heart. When I hear about a child who is being bullied, I go to pieces. Even when I hear about the one who is committing the act, I feel sad and sorry. What could make a person cold enough to want to treat someone else with such cruelty? If I see it happening now, I always step in. But that wasn't always the case. The fear of speaking up by those who witness bullying is one of the biggest tragedies of the situation and allows this horrible scene to keep playing over and over.
I love my job at our library and having the privilege to work face to face with our patrons. We have a great number of students who come to us every day after school as their safe place to hang out. When you see them every day, they learn to trust you and some will really open up if they are having troubles. In the few years that I have been in Perryville, several children and their parents have come in for help because they have become the target of bullies. One of the best resources I have found for teens and parents of teens who are living through this, is a collection of personal stories called "Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories" by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones. As the title suggests, "Dear Bully" is a compilation of real-life stories as told by now successful writers. Most of them were victims of bullying at some point in their lives, some were the bully, and some were witnesses to the crime. All of them have a poignant story to tell.
Most of the stories that Hall and Jones have put together deal with victim's experiences and were tough to take in, maybe because we have all either been in their shoes, or have watched it happen. In the end though, most were uplifting as most of the tales ended with the target overcoming their tormentors and moving on to become happy, successful and productive adults. Not every time. We have all heard the news stories and know what the outcome can be.
One of the most important chapters I read to my son and daughter was entitled "The Sound of Silence." A young girl watches day after day as a classmate is physically and verbally tortured in the halls of their high school. Teachers and other students blindly walk by and the author of the story struggles to find the courage to step in and help the victim. As we read, we were all thinking that the story would end in triumph and the writer would find that strength. But as it happens most of the time, she could not. Feeling ashamed and hating herself, she knows that she will have a chance to do the right thing the next day, and the day after that. But will she ever? My kids and I had a long talk about how they would handle themselves if put in the same situation. Their answers were everything I could have wished for. You pray that your kids will do the right thing. But in that moment what will they really do?
I urge you to read "Dear Bully" for yourself, or together, as a tool to see all sides of the story. To crawl inside the ones who are bullied and feel their pain and learn from their courage how to finally stand up and say, "Enough!" To explore the mind of the bully and understand what is behind their need to cause such pain, because sometimes, they are the victim as well and you will be surprised at what makes them tick. And most importantly for most kids, to hear stories of how we can all stand up for others without fear and know that it's the right thing to do. The more that happens, the better and safer place this world will be.
In addition to "Dear Bully" we have a vast array of materials at your disposal if you are looking for help in coping with bullying at any level. Please visit our Reference Staff at any branch for help. As always, we will keep your request totally confidential.
Recommended by Donna Nichols