When I was a school counselor, there was a girl in the sixth grade who was absent more than present. When she did make it to school, kids called her “Dead Girl” because of her monotone expression, and unkempt appearance. Then one day, she stopped coming to school for a long time. I called. The Vice Principal called. The teachers called. The girl didn’t show up. Finally, we made a home visit. We started out as “the administration going to get the ditching delinquent to comply with the law.”
What we found made us morph back into a compassionate human beings working with a child doing the best she could. We took in what we saw as we approached an obvious “drug house.” Sheets hung awkwardly across the dirty window with enough of a gap that we could see the mattress with no bedding on the floor along with ancient laundry and filth. The yard was full of weeds, the house falling apart; an external symptom of what was going on inside. Honestly, I can’t remember if anyone answered the door or not. All I remember was an eye-opening and heart-opening glimpse into the challenges of a childhood. No, make that five childhoods, as she was just one of several siblings. We wanted her to be in school, to get an education. She wanted to live, to eat and to be cared for.
When she did finally return to school, we the school community, should have embraced her with open arms, fed her, brushed her hair, welcomed her back and gave her hope. Instead, I heard teachers sarcastically say, “Well, look who decided to come back to school.” She was piled with make up work and threatened with detention. Kids ran around making fun of her, calling her “Dead Girl” again. Had she shown up without shoes, or “inappropriate” length of shorts, the school would have sent her home again rather than provided with clothing. It was no wonder that this child didn’t come to school. She had no support at home and was tormented at school. That she numbed her feelings into appearing dead may be the only thing that kept her from striking out violently at such a harsh, unkind world.
We all know of similar kids in our schools and adults in our workplaces—outcasts, victims of judgment for being fat, for being gay, for being poor, for being abused, for being unhealthy, different, or “special.”
In the 21st century, we are unconsciously acting like a society of bullies judging people for the way they were created. We also now have the means to condemn on an international platform through the Internet. We are still judging people for the color of their skin. We make fun of people who are different, or who are hurting or in fear, instead of asking them if they need help or support. In the name of God, we tell people who they can and cannot love. We use social media to make fun of what people wear in public or do in private. We expose each other’s private pains to a public audience, embarrass our kids, shame our parents, and perpetuate the behaviors of the ego, “I’m right, You are wrong.” Or worse yet, the gangster mentality of righteous groups, “We are right, and the rest of you are wrong.”
All of us need to put ourselves in check. We may not shoot bullets, but we have all shot deadly words into the hearts of others. We cannot create peace and safety by fighting, arguing, and blaming. We each need to take responsibility for our part in the chaos. We need to train our brains to start with heart. We each need to be ambassadors of loving, kindness. We need to behave like the spirituality that we claim to believe in—compassionate, loving, accepting and caring. Let’s show the world that we are, indeed, humankind.