The bell rings and the doors open, dark figures file into the massive theater and the chatter of the high school fill every corner of the room. I look at my list, check my headset and walk across the stage to select a few forgotten props and share a few announcements to the cast and crew on stage right. I take a deep breath as I cross back to where I belong, I steal a glance of the audience, the theater is filled and so alive. I rush behind the curtains and prep the actors, I hear someone talking in my headset telling me it’s almost time. The principle’s voice floods the rooms as he makes every student turn off their phones and talks about the importance of listening. He exits the stage and the lights dim, voices in my headset tell me it’s show time. I say a silent prayer, a prayer that this show resonates with those that need to hear it the most, that lives would be saved, life would be spoken, and hope would be shared. I pray for a world with No More Victims.
For the past several months I have been volunteering with another non-profit called All Access Production. They are a production company that is united by its mission to lend a voice to those that suffer in silence. They use the stage as their platform and tell the stories of those who are and have been bullied. They choose to speak truth in a world that tend to look away. I have been making appearances both on and off stage by serving as a stage manager, playing minor roles and helping with a few hairstyles. If you know me, you know I thrive on stage and I love everything about it. I thought about auditioning for a role, but with my work with YWAM it was hard to try and fit it in, so as they started I offered to help and was asked to stage manage. This was something I had not had a lot of experience with but I instantly fell in love with the cast, crew and ministry.
All Access was founded several years ago and started touring the East Coast schools and making a change in the lives of so many, but after some serious health issue, it was put on the shelf until this year when God opened doors again. The cast of the Spring 2014 All Access Tour is made up of a local Long Islanders, raging in ages from 14 to 40. The production is a 40 minute eye opening, life changing, drama complete with music, dancing and a carefully thought out script. It follows the journey of the Prom Queen, the All-Star, the New Girl and the Victim, showing that our choices can truly change a life. It ends with a brief message from one of the founders on the importance of speaking life and how we hold the key to either damaging or saving a life, they offer a short Q & A time for the students and as people file out of the theaters several usually remain and talk to the cast about various things, from costuming, to auditioning, to bullying around them and even their own personal stories. We also try to spend lunch with the students and talk to them and get to know them.
We as a cast, sat together several weeks ago and talked about bullying and shared stories with each other. As we went around the circle I thought about what I wanted to share when asked; if I was the bully, the victim or the bystander. I thought about my school experience, I was bullied in elementary school, there was a group of boys that always found a way to bug me, to this day I still can remember the day, one of them said, “Your mom died, get over it, it’s nothing to cry about”, I can remember everything about it, where I was standing, who was there, what I was wearing. I remember all the harsh and mean words, people spoke over me. The saying my mother taught me as a child was, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, have been proved wrong for me and every other person that was bullied. I sat in the circle waiting my turn; hearing those hurtful words again, seeing the face of the people who spoken so harshly and reliving, remember the many words, situations and rumors that tore me apart, broke me and stole a piece of my will to live. I lived as a victim, not because everyone in my life bullied me and was mean, but because those words, those names, the lies people spoke over me stuck, I started to be my worst bully, I felt I could never do anything right, that I could do nothing good enough and that if I were smarter, prettier, or skinnier things would be better. When it came my turn I spoke quickly and shared briefly as I hate having attention on me in that vulnerable state. I have been the bully, the victim, the bystander and the hero. I joined into crowds that chose to use words as weapons to tear people down, even though it was short lived I was that person, I was a victim, a victim of others and myself, I was a bystander who was insecure and turned eyes and ears in hopes not to be noticed, but I was also a hero, I remember being in high school and my class was working on a project where we shared with different classes about bullying through different ways. I went to a Christian school and I saw people cut others down with their words, spread rumors, and hurts others, in hopes to make themselves feel better.
I sat with a girl at lunch last week who told me she didn’t think bullying happened in her school, that no one was beat up, no one was called names and that it just didn’t happen. As the bell rang and she walked away, I thought about it, I had seen it happen in the lunch room around me, heard conversations as students passed by and watched aggressive situation take place minuets after the production. We turn our eyes, avoid it and believe the various lies that entangle lives in order to get by and survive. But this epidemic of bullying has grown , kids are being attacked, made fun of and hurt because of what they believe, because they are different, because someone else decided that they could push them down in order to feel better about themselves. It has gotten out of hand, a few days ago someone told me bullying isn’t a big deal and that kids will be kids, I silently shook my head and my heart ached for those who are afraid to go to school, those who are attacked with harsh words and quick judgments.
This morning I woke up to my CNN App going off, telling me that 20 high school students had been stabbed in Pennsylvania. My heart broke, school shootings have risen significantly in the past few years, I realize living in America I am more aware of what is happening. Even in the school district where I live, one of the high schools was recently put on lock down for a serious threat from a student. Last year kids I knew were scared to go to school as there had been threats from students, the next week security was tighter than ever and they functioned in lock down mode. I sit here and wonder what has happened to our world, when kids in America are scared to go to school because someone has threatened to show up with a gun and shoot them? I don’t know about you, but this is not okay. It is also not okay for kids to be scared to go to school in fear of being bullied, attacked and hurt.
The definition of ‘bully’ according to the Webster Dictionary is, ‘to inflict physical or emotional harm upon another, or to make someone timid or fearful of threats.’ This is an epidemic that plagues our schools. It happens, there is so much more I want to say, but I feel that this post needs to come to a close as it is already a jumble of mixed paragraphs and confusing sentences with absolutely no poetic flow, but before I do I want to ask you two things. One, were or are you the bully, victim or bystander and what are you going to do about it? And two, think about the words that left scars, tell me that those don’t hurt, that it is just kids being kids. It is an epidemic that is taken so many innocent lives as victims. So my challenge, speak life, it won’t cost you a thing, but it might just save a life.