Sitting after school one day, I sat alone at a table in the cafeteria and overheard a group of rowdy boys across the room. I rolled my eyes and reassured myself that boys will be boys. Suddenly, my tasks at hand became insignificant. A human being was being told that he didn’t matter. During countless hours of Peer Connector and mediation training over the past six years, I was taught to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, to give my own confidence to those who need it. All of this was running through my mind one day after school, as I watched a group of football players tell an overweight freshman boy that he was not fit to live. I knew that I had to stand up for this boy, who could not seem to find the words to save himself. I hoped that the large, self assured, and intimidating kids could not detect the fear in my eyes as I approached them. As I watched my hands tremble before me, I carefully chose my words and tried to hide the shaking of my voice. I realized that this moment was what all of the social workers and guidance counselors had been urging my peers and myself to do- to stand up against bullying.
A wave of surprise overcame me when only a few of the boys walked away. In the past, as a tall, articulate Caucasian woman, it was easy to make my voice heard, and my opinion was always respected. The ringleader stepped up to me, trying to lure me through a hoop of flames by urging me to agree that this boy was a waste of life. A fat, useless waste of life. He is not even a person, I am told; I do not have to worry about hurting his feelings, according to the football player, because the younger boy doesn’t have any. I proclaim that he is in fact a person, more of a person than the football player is. As I continue, he begins to back away, if only from shock that a girl of higher social ranking, even Student Council President, would say anything to defend a friendless younger boy.
Today, I have seen that the majority of my peers would sit and watch another’s degeneration in exchange for the preservation of their own social standing. Through heartbreaking news headlines and personal observations, it has come to my attention that despite the countless assemblies, nationwide movements, and silent pleas for youth to take action and end bullying, it does not seem to be happening in most high schools. Justice, tempered with mercy and a sense of balance are foreign elements to the average seventeen year old.
As I return to my table, I begin to realize the magnitude of my accomplishment. I realize that as people, we must reach beyond our own limitations to help others, because everyone deserves to be told that they matter. This I believe.
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