“Be careful little lips what you say–for the Father up above is looking down with love; so, be careful little lips what you say.” Many toddlers have been taught these sweet lyrics, complete with hand motions.
I remember bringing my own children to our table, each equipped with a small tube of toothpaste. They laughed and giggled as I instructed them to squeeze every last drop of paste out of their tubes and onto the plates before them. Giggles abruptly ceased when the next instruction was to carefully put all the paste back into the tubes. (I quietly gave thanks for the author of the article I had read who suggested this wonderful analogy to teach children that words, once spoken, cannot be put back.)
Such activities help inculcate habits of mindful speech. I think something is still missing in our society today, however; otherwise, we wouldn’t have so much bullying going on in our schools. Perhaps, that “something” involves teaching our children that what we see in a person eight-or-so hours a day in a school environment is not the complete essence of that person’s life. We don’t know their “whole stories.” And, often, those stories are sad and troubled.
When I was in high school, the “clique” pretty much tortured whomever they chose on a given day. One girl, in particular, was often subjected to their wrath. Their favorite topic on which to hone in was her hair–it was greasy. Day after day, the “clique” would leave samples of “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific” shampoo on her desk (or, throw them at her during class) with boisterous suggestions that she try some. I never took part in their malicious taunts, but I never did anything to stop them, either. For more than 25 years, I carried the haunting pain of cowardice, and prayed that God would somehow allow that girl’s path to cross mine once more so that I could apologize to her. He did. I did. She forgave me. Then, she asked if she could tell me “her story.”
It turns out there was a very good reason her hair was greasy. She lived with a mother who forbid her to shower more than once every week or so. She told me she loved Friday gym classes, because we were able to take showers after class–she would wash her hair and get as clean as possible until the next week.
I wonder if the outcome would have been different if the “clique” had known the story behind the hair.
Since we’ll never know everyone’s story, it’s unlikely bullying will be brought to a screeching halt by some sudden mass movement of empathy. However, we can teach our children that every person “has” a story, (including those who comprise the “clique”) and many times, that story is not a bed of roses. For all-too-many kids in all-too-many schools, the smiles they wear and the carefree attitudes they exude are simply faux exteriors, mastered to hide pain within.
Teaching our children to be mindful of that fact might help reduce the number of bullied victims—and, who knows? It just might reduce the number of bullies, as well.
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.