Though the rains and cool weather stubbornly refuse to loosen their inhospitable grip on the North Country, in the end they will acquiesce to the warm, still days of a welcoming summer, the summer of 2011.
As summer arrives, the school year will come to an end and students will bust out the school doors to that sublime feeling of no school tomorrow.
As the school year ended when I was a kid, my friends and I could scarcely contain ourselves, our teachers reigned us in on occasion and reminded us that school was still in session, sunshine or no sunshine.
For some, summer would mean rushing out the door early in the morning to mount a bike, wet with night's dew, and a quick ride to meet up with friends. For others, it was off to the beach at the lake or to a secret swimming or fishing hole along the river. For some, summer would spell the beginning of work, a job mowing or raking lawns or on an area farm in the hayfield. Now those days seem so rich with freedom and self determination when compared to the experience of today's youth.
One thing that has not changed since then is the existence of bullies and bullying. Unlike years ago, today bullying can be accomplished from behind the cowardly protection of a computer keyboard or a cell phone. Years ago, if you talked badly enough about enough people for long enough, you would experience a day of reckoning at some point. The profile of the bully has also changed, many bullies today are popular, intelligent and have social currency to spend in the community and at school.
By contrast, the bully of yesterday was much easier to manage. Bullies were often pushed to the margins of school and eventually in the community. The victims of bullying are largely unchanged, somehow they are just a little different, too thin, too fat, too smart, not smart enough and so on.
As an adult, each of us has the opportunity to set an example. There are many outstanding examples of how adult behavior changed our culture in monumental and substantive ways. In the 1960s, when doctors were still endorsing smoking, the majority of the adult population were smokers. The children of these adults became smokers by imitating their parents and other influential adults around them.
Public service campaigns against smoking and education programs certainly helped turn the tide against smoking, still, adults may have had the strongest impact in the behavior that was modeled for youth. Adults can help reduce bullying by not being a bully themselves.
Adults that refrain from bullying their children or the children of others will set a powerful example for youth to consider. Adults that choose not to bully other adults will also send a strong message to the youth around them.
This summer, the victims of bullying will vacate the school building, right along with their tormentors. The bully and victim relationship won't change just because school is out. The victims will still be vulnerable and bullies will still be pressing their advantage.
As an adult, we all have a chance to set a good example and each of us have the chance to stop bullying when we see it. If one instance of bullying can be stopped, the lives of the victim and the bully may be changed forever.
Some will say that everyone has been picked on at some point and that it is just part of growing up. Bullying is not a normal part of growing up and everyone needs to take this very serious problem seriously. We will always need champions to lead popular movements and their importance can not be overstated.
However, in the end, if all of us or most of us don't decide that bullying is as intolerable as the prevalence of cigarette smoking, reducing the instances of bullying will move slowly. Sadly, the many victims of bullying must continue to carry that heavy weight, and, in some instances, they may break under its weight.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org