2013 2 March

Sticks & Stones….

Posted in Steinbach United

Sticks and Stones by Gary Paterson

So, today is Anti-Bullying Day! Did you know that the first national Bullying Prevention Week was conceived in Canada, in 2000, by Canadian educator and anti-bullying activist Bill Belsey? (It just seems so appropriate that little ol’ Canada would be among the first to raise the anti-bullying flag!) And you probably remember how, back in the fall of 2007, a young grade 9 kid from Nova Scotia turned up on the first day of high school wearing a pink shirt and was bullied without mercy. Two grade 12 students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, decided to do something about it, and went out and bought 50 pink shirts to distribute to people at school the next day. Meanwhile, they e-mailed all of their friends and said, “Wear pink tomorrow!” The result—the school was filled with an overwhelming sea of pink, and the bullies disappeared into silence. And today it’s the sixth annual Pink Shirt Day across the nation!

I remember my mother trying to convince me that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Not true; never was—just made it harder to admit how much it really did hurt. I still remember Terry with a port wine stain on his face, and Randy with the cleft palate, and Drew, the overweight boy in grade 9, and how they were bullied, and what I didn’t do. That’s when I discovered that it takes a bully, a victim, and silent bystanders for evil to succeed. But I was scared, worried that I might be the next victim. Because I carried my own painful memories of being bullied; probably lots of us do.

And on this day, I remember Amanda Todd, the grade 10 girl from Port Coquitlam (BC) who killed herself last October because she just couldn’t take anymore bullying, especially cyberbullying. Size, colour, disability, accent, orientation, ethnicity, religion, weight, stuttering—we humans are endlessly creative and vicious when it comes to bullying one another.

It happens in churches too. Remember that resolution about gossip that got passed at our last General Council with some laughter, but deep down with painful acknowledgement? How to ensure that church is a safe place where all of us know and believe that we are children of God and treat one another that way—a new creation in Christ, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free? Each and every one of us beautiful and beloved! I was talking to a minister friend who shared that he would rather spend time with a kind atheist than a mean Christian. Ouch!

Maybe you might want to stretch this day out to include the weekend. Maybe this Sunday you might wear a lot of pink—even though it’s Lent. And if people ask you why, maybe start a conversation about bullying, or gossip, and the clever subtle ways we have of putting people down. And then ask, “I wonder if that ever happens here at church?”

There’s a great poem by Shane Koyczan online (scroll down his homepage for the words and for the video he made to go with it; the video is also on YouTube). You might remember him as the slam poet who blew us all away at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics with “We Are More.” He’s a BC guy (makes me partial)—someone who makes poetry come alive and exciting, which is some feat after too many high school English classes taught people to hate poetry. But his poem, “To This Day”—you’ll love it! And you’ll understand bullying in a whole new way.