“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” –Elie Wiesel
By now, you have probably heard of Karen Klein, the New York school bus monitor mercilessly bullied by a crowd of 12-13 year old boys on a school bus. As the boys continued to torment Klein she remained calm and did not retaliate, at one point telling them that if they didn’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all. After word of this incident got out, a complete stranger set up a fundraising site that has raised over $600,000 to date so that Klein could go on vacation and feel a little of the kindness that she could have used that day on the bus.
In reading this story, the classic roles are easily seen: the bullies/perpetrators, the victim, and the bystanders (all those students who were clearly within hearing range, but did nothing). Who is missing? The Upstanders. Those people who are often called heroes, champions of causes, doers of good. Where were they? No doubt about it, many of us feel that if we were there, we would have done the right thing. We would have made it stop. Unfortunately, we have all had chances to be an Upstander that we let pass us by. Whether it was ignoring the girl everyone made fun of in school or joining in heckling a fan of an opposing team for wearing the wrong jersey to the game. She’ll be fine. He deserves it. Sticks and stones, right?
Wrong. It is in these every day instances that we have a chance to shine. Bullying is everywhere, and it doesn’t take much to see it happening. It doesn’t take much to stand by, or even to join in, really. It takes more to stand up and say, this is wrong, we’re better than this. No one deserves to be attacked verbally or physically just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When we stand up for these unfortunate folks, we make their world a better place, even if just for a moment. And sometimes a moment is all it takes to change someone’s world.
If you want to learn more about Karen Klein’s story, here are some links to get you started: