This past week brought us the harrowing story of a 68 -year-old female bus monitor being mercilessly bullied by middle schoolers on their way home from school in Rochester, NY. As I watched the video on the Internet, overcome with sadness and disbelief, a few thoughts came to mind.
Adults experience bullying too. So much attention has been focused on teen and adolescent bullying in recent years that we often overlook the fact that adults, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, also experience bullying. Older adults are often victimized by younger people, as in this situation. Some may even be bullied by their own children. Other adults may experience the growing problem of workplace bullying. This case highlights that bullying, in all its forms, must be vigorously condemned.
We need to teach and model compassion for others. While many of us may be shocked by the actions of the middle schoolers in the video, the sad reality is that many young people experience these acts so regularly that they have become desensitized to the callousness of such behavior. We need to tirelessly teach our kids about being compassionate to others, about being peacemakers, and about the golden rule. The best way to teach our young about compassion is by being compassionate ourselves. It is unfortunate that many people reacted to the actions of the middle schoolers by sending them death threats. This perpetuates a culture of violence and gross insensitivity toward others. We simply cannot expect young people to treat others with respect if they are not being respected.
Never underestimate the power of the Internet. The teen who shot and posted the video of his friends bullying the bus monitor said to the press that he didn’t think that what he and his friends were doing was such a big deal. He had seen many videos like it on the web and he was simply making his contribution. Instead, the video drew millions of hits and condemnation from around the world. This young man had no idea that his own actions would lead to his present (and possibly future) troubles. Furthermore, he created a record of his misdeeds that will live in perpetuity in cyberspace. His life is forever changed. This is the unpredictable power of the Internet.
We also saw the power of the Internet in another way through this incident. Another young man took the same video and posted it to a funding site, soliciting donations to reach a goal of $5,000 to send the bus monitor on a “vacation of a lifetime.” To date, the site has raised over well over $600,000 and donations continue to pour in as I write this. Her life is forever changed.
Let us be thankful for the outpouring of support the bus monitor received. May the middle schoolers learn from their mistakes and be granted a second chance.
May we treat everyone we meet with kindness and respect.