Be Brave. Be Like Bob.

Oh.  Hey.  

Spring Break, huh?  

Last night, I read a comment on one of my social media posts from a parent that was actively witnessing the effects of a child being isolated from their friends while they were on Spring Break.  Ah, group time out.  I’ve been sitting here for a while, my fingertips on my keyboard, trying to think of a nice way to describe the way that makes me feel.  It’s been weighing on my heart.

That last week with Deegan was really hard to watch unfold.  It broke my heart to see the look of defeat that Tuesday and Wednesday after school, when he told me that still, no one spoke to him.  Deegan was wearing ear buds to school, listening to music when he wasn’t in classes so he wouldn’t have to acknowledge the fact that he was being isolated.  The thought of him sitting at a lunch table full of friends, feeling so alone, reminded me later of that Robin Williams quote: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone.  It’s not.  It’s to end up with people who make you feel like you’re all alone.”  

Thursday, when he came home from school, I could see a night and day change.  His smile had returned.  One of his friends, we’ll call him Bob, said hello to him at school.  When Deegan didn’t reply (because he had his ear buds in and didn’t hear him), Bob reached out to him to make sure everything was okay.  That one small act of kindness was what he needed to feel like he still mattered.  

Thursday turned into Friday, and the final payment was due for Deegan’s Spring Break trip.  When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I gently asked him, “Hey, I hate to bring it up, but the final payment is due today for Spring Break.”  I told him all of the things.  I told him that he didn’t have to go if he didn’t want to, that if we lost the deposit money it was okay.  I told him that we could plan a separate trip with one of his other groups of friends, or even just as a family.  With a smile, he said, “No mom, it’s okay, Bob’s going so it’ll be fine.”  He felt completely comforted by Bob’s kindness. 

So here we are.  The week of Spring Break 2024.  Last weekend was pretty awful.  On Friday, I found myself praying that all of Deegan’s friends would make it to PCB safely in the snow, and that they’d find a way to come together and have fun, despite the conflict that has emerged amongst their intertwined groups.  At the same time, I was heartbroken for the boy who wouldn’t be there.  I wondered if anyone would think of him, or if he would be forgotten like last week’s meatloaf in the back of the fridge.  Would anyone tell stories about him, or say that something reminded them of him?  Would anyone wish he was there?  I cried.  A lot.  I cried for Spring Break, and prom, and graduation, and how those things would just be the beginning of all of the things my son would miss – buying motorcycles with his big brother, standing up in each other’s weddings, the pursuit of his first business.

And last night, I was crying for that kid in my social media comments, alone on some beach on Spring Break, feeling isolated and alone.  Just like Deegan did. 

We live in a culture where mental health is shameful.  Interestingly, the same culture makes standing up in the face of adversity really hard.  Bullies torment with coy smiles, daring their victims to stand up to them.  Victims are blamed when they finally lash out in retaliation.  Bystanders are terrified to speak up, because they’re afraid of becoming the new target as a result.  It’s safer to fly under the radar and watch what’s happening, than it is to risk saying what you really think.  Kids do it.  Grown-ups do it too.  We hide behind policies, and handbooks, and administration.  We say things like, “just ignore them” or “toughen up”, because it’s easier than actually pulling back the curtain to see the HUGE glaring problem we’ve created.      

Here’s how I see it: If I say nothing, it makes me no better than every person who sat at that lunch table watching what was happening to Deegan, while saying nothing.  If I keep my mouth shut because telling the truth and standing up for what’s right might ruffle some feathers, or because some people might not like me, I may just as well have been sitting at that table too. I’m choosing to be brave enough to stand up publicly, in front of the world, and say that isolating people is an awful thing to do.  It’s cruel, and hurtful, and unkind.  And I don’t much care who doesn’t like me because I said it.  I’m not naive enough to think that you’ll be friends with every person you meet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to them.  If you really don’t like them, just don’t be unkind to them.   

I know a lot of the kids that were sitting at that lunch table.  I know that some of them would give anything for a do-over.  Most of us that knew Deegan feel that way about something or other.  We all have something that we regret: something we wish we would’ve said, or something we wish we didn’t; plans we wish we would’ve made or kept; things we wish we would’ve done differently. Every adult reading this can look back on their own childhood, or even yesterday, and think of something they’d love to take back.  Something they‘d like a do-over on.  That’s how life works.  We’re human.  We do stupid things, and then we learn from our mistakes, and become better people because of them. 

Some of you reading this, you’re sitting at those lunch tables, watching someone feeling very lonely.  Some of you won’t have the courage to stand up for them, and I hope that someday you’ll look back at staying seated, and see a lesson that makes you a better person.  Be brave.  I know you’re afraid that those same people will turn on you.  I know you’re afraid of being treated the same way.  I know you’re afraid of people being mad at you, or people talking behind your back, or turning others against you.  BE BRAVE.  If you see someone being treated poorly, stand up for them.  If you see someone being isolated, choose to include them.  If you see someone that looks like they could use a friend, reach out.  Be somebody’s Bob.  All it takes sometimes is one person, one single act of kindness to help someone see the hope in tomorrow. 

2 thoughts on “Be Brave. Be Like Bob.”

  1. The easiest way to be like Bob, is be nice to everyone. You never know what the other person is going through, give them a break and be nice. Remember the second greatest commandment in the Bible, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12). Jesus talked to the “lady” at the well, not because he had to, because he was loving and caring and setting an example.

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