By Charles Kolin
October 24 is Unity Day. The definition of unity is: the state of being united or joined as a whole. On this day, we come together with schools around the world and wear orange to stand together against bullying and unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Today, we come together to let those who have been bullied know that they are not alone. Many people have experienced bullying and unfortunately, I have experienced bullying as well.
The bullying that I experienced wasn’t physical — it was psychological and social. I was the new kid in Greenwich when I started fifth grade, and from fifth grade to eighth grade, my peers would go out of their way to say cruel things to me. I was either bombarded with constant belittling or I was shunned completely. Phrases like, "You suck," and, "Go kill yourself," were what I heard multiple times throughout my day.
When they weren't saying hurtful things to me, they were excluding me. The exclusion would range from ignoring me in simple conversations, to not allowing me to sit anywhere at lunch, to hearing, "Everyone can come to my house to hang out, except for you Charles."
Honestly, I don't know which thing hurt worse: being spoken to so viciously or being treated as if I didn't exist at all.
What everyone here needs to understand is the pain you feel every day when you're being bullied — knowing that you have to go back and face what will be another torture session, knowing that you have no one to turn to — is immense.
It's overwhelming and it can destroy you.
But if you know me, you know that no matter what the circumstance, I never give up hope or optimism. Although I had to go through my bullying experience alone, my hope is that no one else has to.
I truly believe in the best of people. I believe that if we unite as neighbors, as a family, we can end bullying so that none of our classmates, those who are different, those with disabilities that you can or cannot see, those who are the new kids, are treated with compassion, understanding, and kindness.
We can make sure that no one walks alone and that no one is isolated. The power of many can positively affect so many people’s lives and make them feel welcomed and part of a team.
Starting today — together — we can start the movement.
It all starts with a simple word. A simple word that would have spared me years of pain. And this simple word can also spare others the pain of loneliness and depression. This simple word is: kindness.
Kindness starts with a smile. A, " How are you?" or a greeting in the hallway. It starts with not putting someone in a box simply because they may be different or seem awkward socially.
It means putting in the effort to get to know the new kid, to get to know the “weird” kid. If we all do this together it will be one less person feeling pain and feeling alone and it could save a life.
Living your life by example to influence others is the most powerful thing you can do. We at GFA can be a beacon of light that others may look upon and say, "These students not only talk the talk, they walk the walk."
They live it every day with how they act towards one another in class, on the athletic field, on social media, and in our community.
In the words of American civil rights activist and politician Jesse Jackson, “Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.”