Equally as important in identifying bullying, in all its forms, and raising awareness, is being the bystander who has the courage to speak up and stop it.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about bullying was watching my best friend be bullied by her boyfriend’s parents because she was “overweight” and “didn’t fit in”. This experience taught me many lessons. I realized that my role far exceed being the shoulder for my best friend to cry on or, being the one to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart. I learned that bullying isn’t just on the playground or in the hallways. It exists in all societies, age groups and environments. Living in society where pressure and emphasis is often placed on aesthetic beauty, it was very important to me to take a stance and speak up for my best friend, who at the time was vulnerable, broken and didn’t have a voice. I could not be the “passive bystander” and allow this type of behavior to continue. Knowing that I spoke up for someone who couldn’t, and gave them the support in knowing that someone was on her side was crucial. As the ever so wise, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Coming from a culture that has strong traditions and strict values, it was very hard for me to adjust as a kid in elementary. I immigrated to the United States when I was seven and knew only one sentence in English. I was always made fun of because I couldn’t communicate as well as the other kids in my class. At lunchtime, some of the “cooler” kids would make fun of me for the way I dressed. While this made me feel extremely self-conscious, I never spoke a word of it to anyone. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing 5th grade teacher who showed me that bullying should not be tolerated. One day, during recesses, he overheard two of the girls taunting me for the skirt I was wearing while I was quietly sitting on the bench looking down. He walked over to them and suspended their recess time privileges and made them apologize to me in front of the whole class. This taught me a lesson that I carried with me throughout my years in school. While I was friends with the “cool” kids in high school, I chose to hang out with the unpopular crowd, always taking their side. It takes bystanders like my 5th grade teacher and bystanders like you and me to put an end to bullying.