New Castle News

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October 1, 2012

Lisa Madras: Let’s stand up and make a difference — together

NEW CASTLE — What (or whom) are you willing to stand up for?

If you haven't asked yourself this question at some point in your life, now would be a good time.

I think we all have vague notions of what issues or causes put us into "fight mode" just from our reaction to hearing about them. When emotions respond strongly to something, it's pretty safe to assume that we'd also be willing to stand up for that cause.

But how often in your life have you ever been put in the situation where you had to, or more aptly, were able to? For many of us, those instances are rare.

My friend Henry and I were chatting about our kids yesterday and he told a story about his eighth-grader, Jennifer, that I had to share with you.

Henry had received a Facebook message from the mother of one of Jennifer's classmates, who wanted to say thank you and tell them what a difference Jennifer had made in her son's life. Ethan had just moved into the school district a few years ago, and was having a hard time adjusting.  After two years of trying to fit in, he was still being bullied and shunned by most of the other boys.

Jennifer, who has a large group of friends, took Ethan under her wing and into her social circle. They sit together at lunch every day, and Jennifer brought presents to school for his birthday.

He had hated going to school, his mom said, and now he looks forward to it every day.

What a crazy, inspiring, awesome difference you can make in someone's life just by standing up for them! I teach my own children all the time to be on the lookout for classmates who are having a hard time, and to try to make a difference for them. My own son (who was bullied himself for several years) has already cut off several attacks by bullies on some of his classmates. It makes me happier than anything else he does, and I'm proud he shares the same character as the beautiful and charismatic Jennifer and others like her.

There are days that my heart breaks that I've brought my children into a world where the odds seem so stacked against them, and where bullying, intolerance, and lack of character seem the norm.  

And then there are days when I hear about the Jennifers of the world.

In September of 2007, two boys inspired hundreds of students at a Nova Scotia school to dress in pink from head to toe the day after a male student was bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt to school. In 2012, a girl in Utah had a Post-it note placed on her back reading, "Caution: Wide Load."

Acting on a mass text message, more than a thousand students covered themselves and the school in Post-its that read "Not in our school," "Stop the hate," and "Time to change."

If you've ever wondered just what exactly you would stand up for in this world, it wouldn't be a bad idea to learn a thing or two from these kids.  It seems they've already given it some thought.

What's more, they've figured out that when you show compassion, it starts a chain reaction.

"Goodness is the only investment that never fails." — Henry David Thoreau

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