I watched….or should I say, started to watch a video online today. You may have seen it. It was the 10 minute video of a bunch of kids on a bus harassing and making fun of their bus monitor.
She sat there crying.
They laughed and continued, growing bolder in their language and the types of things they were saying to her, while someone on the bus recorded it. Here it is, but I warn you the language is terrible and it will break your heart.
I was able to watch a couple of minutes until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I had two thoughts.
1. How beaten down by life do you have to be to have a bunch of (what looked like) middle-school kids call you a fat ass (and worse) and you just sit there and take their abuse without even trying to discipline them?
2. How do you watch that level of pain and distress in someone and not have any empathy for them or shame in what you’re doing?
To the first thought, I have some answers. The woman in the video is a widow who also has buried a child….making some of the kids’ comments even more horrific…..so she has known a lot of sorrow. She apparently struggles to make ends meet, another thing the kids made fun of, which we all know can be an incredible stressor. Maybe she kept quiet because she knew if she started yelling she wouldn’t stop, or maybe she was afraid that if she said anything she would end up in trouble, which in this day and age is entirely possible. Either way, her quiet acceptance of their abuse was a terrible thing to witness.
To the second thought, I have no answers. I just don’t understand. When I asked my daughter about whether or not she’d seen this video, she said that she had and that it didn’t surprise her because “kids are awful”.
I think I may be as astounded by her answer as I was about the initial video. I assume it means she has either witnessed or been the recipient of similar bullying, or maybe both. That makes me sad, but I also remember how cruel kids can be from my own childhood. Bullying is nothing new, as many of us probably know all too well, and the cure for bullying is empathy.
So my question, dear reader is this:
Can you teach empathy or is it a quality you are born with? How can we help our kids understand their words have power and that we have the ability to wound others with them?
I would really like to hear your thoughts on this, so please leave a comment and share. The more people who join in the discussion the better.