When I was eight years old, I caught the bus home from school every day. Both of my parents worked full-time so every afternoon I took one of the school’s three buses home to my house where my grandmother was waiting for me. I still remember that I rode on bus #2. I still remember that Melvin was our bus driver. And I still remember the intimidating girl who took her daily frustrations out on me each and every day on that bus.
She knew what she was doing. She knew I’d be sitting with my friend every afternoon. And she knew that my friend lived at the front end of the route while she and I lived closer to the end. So she’d wait until my friend was off the bus and some of the route was completed so there were empty spaces around me. Then she would make her way up or down the bus aisle to my position. It didn’t matter where I sat. She’d always find me.
And she would sit either beside me or in front of me where she could stare directly into my eyes and whisper so no one could hear her except me. “You’re ugly. Do you know how ugly you are? Nobody at the whole school likes you.” She seldom took a breath and, since I never spoke up, she just continued until it was time to get off the bus. “It makes me sick to look at you. You disgust me. I don’t want you to ride this bus anymore. Do you understand me?”
I’m ashamed to admit that I sat there frozen, day after day, fighting back tears as I looked into the eyes of one of the meanest people I’d ever met. I didn’t even know her. We were several grades apart. Why me? Why was she was she picking on me?
I never said anything. Ever. I was afraid. Our families knew each other. We lived in the same neighborhood. We attended the same church. And everybody loved her. At age eight, I feared anything I did or said would only make things worse for me every afternoon on that bus.
So I did nothing. I said nothing. I just sat there and took it. For the entire school year.
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Why am I writing about this story today? Because I’m partnering with an incredible organization called Give Forward, the world’s number one fundraising site for assisting people in need, to help share their mission.
Since 2008, Give Forward has helped families raise over $120 million dollars. Their main goal is to eliminate the all-too-familiar bystander effect by serving as an outlet for both those who need help and those who can give it.
Currently, Give Forward has a campaign running to help the family of the ALS Ice Bucket prank victim in Bay Village, Ohio. The purpose of this fundraiser is to offer the victim and his family the support they deserve right now and spread a message of love, rather than hate. Give Forward wants him to know he is a hero for finding the courage to talk about what happened and maybe even prevent the next instance of bullying.
To read more about the victim’s story and make a donation, please click here.
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To the eight-year-old girl who didn’t have the courage to speak up for herself back in the day, know that your negative experiences were not in vain. In decades to come, they will help you cope when similar issues and problems arise with your own children. And that people DO like you.