I would like to share something that is very near and dear to my heart. My sister-in-law, Jenny, has recently started an anti-bullying campaign as a way to try to make a difference on behalf of her 8-year-old daughter who has been a target of bullying since Kindergarten. I say "target" and not "victim", because my sweet niece does not let the bullying get to her -- in fact, she frequently tells her parents that she feels sorry for them, that they must have issues at home that make them the way they are. Amazing insight and empathy in such a little girl -- I couldn't be more proud of her! And I also couldn't be more heartbroken about this situation. My youngest daughter, her cousin, is also 8 -- we have another niece in the family that is 8 (big year in our family!) -- I CANNOT IMAGINE anyone bullying my littlest daughter! I CANNOT IMAGINE how that would make her feel, what that would do to her self-confidence, the sweet smile on her face, the joy she shows every day. How dare someone try to take those things away from her! My husband and I have always taught our girls -- "you don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you do have to try to be as nice as you can to everyone." Seems simple enough. My sister-in-law Jenny's campaign fits perfectly with that.
Jenny is a photographer and recently, friends on Facebook have seen pictures that she has taken in her town of people holding a sign that says, "Love one another." Yesterday she posted this explanation on Facebook, and I wanted to try and help get this message out in any way that I can, so here it is:
"So what is the what with this sign?! Well thanks for asking! The #loveoneanother sign is one that I happily purchased from a NoFo thrift shop for ten bucks about 3 years ago. It's been hanging in our den until about a month ago when I had an idea for a photo shoot.
What if we were surrounded by messages like this regularly? On billboards, in magazines or Buzzfeed, anywhere, everywhere? What would our world be like if we loved one another regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, waist size, bank account size, etc. What if we taught our children this? What if this simple phrase or idea was everywhere you looked? On Facebook or after a hashtag or on a tee shirt? Would it make a difference at all? Would it start trending? If it did, wouldn't that be amazing?
As some of you know, my daughter has been bullied every year since she started Kindergarten. Same daughter, different bullies. It. Is. So. Hard. How do you explain to a child who has been raised to treat everyone with kindness, and respect, regardless of their life's circumstances, that she is not liked enough by some to receive that same respect and kindness? It is heartbreaking for her and everyone that loves her. And she is just one kid in a world of bullied kids. It's hard because as a parent I want to protect her from all heartache but I can't. I feel helpless. I'm idealistic, I know. I realize not everyone is going to #loveoneanother or even #likeoneanother but can we all just agree to be kind to each other anyway?
So back to the sign...I guess it's my way of working through an ongoing crappy situation. My way of drumming up a little hope for the future. When I ask people if I can photograph them with the sign, I explain that I have been inspired by my daughter and her struggle with bullies. Every person so far has smiled when they read the sign and then held it for a photograph. Maybe it will catch on?! I hope so. All I know is that I am not the only mother struggling to understand why her child is singled out, made to feel alone, sad, anxious, hurt, picked apart. But it is my job to show her the good in this world and to me, the good are the folks in these pictures, especially this one. You can view more #loveoneanother photos on Instagram or JNI Photography. Take the #loveoneanotherpledge to #teachyourchildrenwell #respecteveryone #endbullying - make your own #loveoneanother sign, take a picture and share!"
We love you too, Eki!