Is there a video, song, or poem that, despite having experienced it one hundred times, still has the power to bring a tear to your eye or send shivers down your spine?
This week, while playing through my liked videos on YouTube I rediscovered a video that, “To This Day,” has moved me more than any other.
Shane Koyczan’s “To This Day” Project, a beautifully animated spoken word poem that explores the deep and lasting impact of bullying on individuals, touched me not only because of my own experience with it, but because like he says, “We weren’t the only kids who grew up this way.”
Childhood is a difficult time for many people as we embark on our life journey and begin to discover and develop ourselves through our interactions with people and the world around us. In the beginning, our world is so small and we have little to no control over our experiences as our elders make most decisions for us. Our world grows as we attend church or enter school and begin interacting with many different people with varying interests. We are intrigued, confused, enamored, and disgusted by the various differences we see in people and we are given the choice to accept them or not.
As it is a part of our human condition to seek love and acceptance, we want to feel important and to know our life has meaning, but some of us choose to gain these feelings at the expense of others’. Each one of us is unique, from our physical appearance to our favorite pastime, but from the hateful comments of bullies, we can begin to see our uniqueness as a flaw and hate ourselves for it.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can definitely hurt and can even have lasting effects. An insecure student who loves reading and does well in school may drop out or quit trying after being continuously called a “nerd,” directly impacting his/her future education and career choices. Some victims of bullying carry physical scars for the rest of their lives from self-mutilation or violent confrontations. Words can have the most lasting effect when tormented children, lacking love and support, feel that their lives are so miserable and worthless that they decide to end them.
In a predominantly Hispanic middle school, I was picked on for my race and was pushed off the bleachers. I was made fun of for being excessively skinny and from 4th grade to this day I have been called “Giraffe” because of my long neck. Like myself, many kids stay in the same school system throughout their educational careers and the horrible nicknames or rumors can follow them, making school miserable and life like a prison. In an attempt to protect themselves from the torment of the other kids, they may shut themselves off emotionally and begin to dangerously internalize their feelings, ultimately cutting themselves off from the love and support of others that they desperately need.
Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” To really affect change, we as a society must take a stand against bullying rather than normalize and ignore it. We must be true to ourselves, find the beauty in our similarities and differences, and love one another despite them. We cannot be mere bystanders, watching those around us tear each other down. We must express ourselves and listen to one another, and make sure no one feels alone.
We can work to prevent bullying through education and awareness at all stages. Despite many teachers identifying bullying as the main non-academic issue, many haven’t been offered classes on bullying, and because of this don’t know how to respond. We, as human beings, have a responsibility to one another to develop a deeper understanding of bullying and become aware of the protocol, policies, and programs regarding it.
For more information about what you can do or how we can help, click here.
Shane is an award-winning Canadian spoken word poet, author, and performer. His inspirational anti-bullying video that accompanied his “To This Day Project” took his notoriety to a whole new level when it became viral in 2013 and has since reached almost 16 million views. This is the same video that had the power to affect me deeply my first blog post. For more information about Shane, follow the link below to his website.