9/29/11

Bring each other kindness

This story had me shedding a tear of my own.

Short story shorter (for those who don't want to click through), a man wrote his experiences of being tormented in school by bullies. Tell me, to how many of you does this sound eerily familiar?

The bullying began in the 7th-grade and continued through to the day I graduated the 12th-grade. Although I didn’t come out of the closet until I was 35-years old, I was constantly ridiculed and called names including fag and fudgepacker. No matter how hard I tried, from going to school dances to dating girls, I was always seen as weak. I sang in the school choir and I was active in various clubs, which was seen as gay. Despite my participation in these activities I was a pretty shy kid. I wasn’t very good at gym and I was always picked last for games. I was excited when I discovered tennis and made the tennis team. But, alas, tennis, the bullies claimed, was a gay sport. I couldn’t win for losing! It didn’t help that most of my friends were girls – although, as it turns out, it was those girls that were the very people who kept me from going over the deep end. Those girls saved my life.


It's scary how close Kevin's words ring true for me, and I'm very sure, many of you. When I think of what culture means, with its implication of "shared experiences" and the like, this is not what I have in mind, but for many of us, this was the culture we experienced while going through school. It's sickening to think that it's still rampant today.

When I made the choice to go vegan all those years ago, a big part of it was living my life in reflecting the peace that I feel towards all beings, human and animal alike. I don't think it's right for people to have to suffer the indignities of physical or emotional torture. I don't think it's right for violence against our fellow beings who are sharing our time on this planet, to continue unchecked. It's not OK.

However, as with many stories, where the hero sticks it out (and, if you can see this, Kevin, you are a hero), things get better, and a ray of hope shines through. The very next day, Kevin got an email from one of his former tormentors, asking for forgiveness.

Whether or not Kevin chose to forgive (and you'll find out, if you click through) is immaterial. Forgiveness is as much an act for the forgiver as it is for the forgiven. When we seek to better ourselves, we must remember that we are imperfect. We are going to make mistakes, and learn from them. However, if we don't at least make an attempt to make amends, and to move forward, we hold ourselves back from evolving as people. We hold ourselves back from making peace, and making more kindness flow through the world.

I know that when I was in a position to forgive a former bully, I have done so. It wasn't for that person's sake; it was for my own. I needed to let go of that hurt and pain that I'd been holding on to all those years, and make peace with it; indeed, to make peace with myself. However, if that person had not come forward to ask me to forgive, I may have never had the opportunity to heal.

That's the thing about atonement. You are doing something good for yourself, but you're also doing something good for that other person. This is a time of celebration. The new year dawns open, and hopeful. In a week, we'll be in Yom Kippur, and it's time for us to reach out to those people that we've wronged, even if it's been a very long time since we've even thought of them. Kevin's bully approached him after thirty-five years, and Kevin could still vividly remember the hurt and pain he suffered. That's why it's so important to have a day of atonement. It forces you to step back for a moment, and really think about what you can do to clear the air, and move forward.

We can't move forward without looking back.

L'shana tova!
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