Friday, October 1, 2010

You are a child of the universe, No less than the trees and the stars; You have a right to be here.

Tyler Clementi was quiet.  He was a bright young musician who attended Rutgers University.  He was outed as being gay on the internet, and days later he threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge.

Tyler Clementi is gone.

Tyler Clementi, and others like him, felt that their only - their ONLY - recourse following bullying was suicide.  I can't imagine how alone and afraid, how utterly devastated and abandoned he and countless other victims like him must have felt during their last days with us.

How did we let this happen?

Tyler and Seth and Asher and Billy and so many more.  All teenagers, all victims of hate and bullying.  Each of these beautiful spirits endured so much.  They were called names, their privacy was violated, they were humiliated and mocked and torn down and their lives were made a living hell.  And they felt like they had nobody left to turn to.  They felt like they had no way out, other than suicide.

It has to stop.  We need to change the message that we are sending to our kids.  Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can do damage too.  Words of hate, words of intolerance and ignorance - these words don't just hurt.

These words can kill.

And it has to stop.

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?  Do you remember not fitting in?  Feeling left out?  Feeling pressured to belong to something, even if it meant changing who you were?  We all went through something like this when we were younger.  Some of us are still going through it now.  It really doesn't matter if you are gay or straight or somewhere in between.  It just doesn't.  We all want the same thing.  We want to be loved for who we are.  We want to belong.  And so do our kids. 

We need to do better.  We need to do better for our children, for the children that have lost their lives due to senseless and shameful acts of bullying.

We need to change. 

We need to stand up and say that it's not okay.

It's not okay to use words to hurt. To maim. To kill.  It's not okay to invade someone's privacy.  It's not okay to treat other human beings like trash.

I am so sick and tired of having to say this over and over and over again.

My heart is so heavy today, heavy with the knowledge that lives have ended over this.  That there will be more lost before we get over our prejudice and realize that it's us.  That we are hurting ourselves, we are chipping away at our very spirit every time we allow a life to be lost this way.

Every time a child cries in a bathroom stall because they are too afraid to walk the hallway.  Every time they feign sickness in order to stay away from school.  Every time they try to tell someone and are ignored.  Every time we fail to recognize that we condoning messages of intolerance, we are hurting ourselves. 

And we have to do better.

Tell your children today that you love them.  Tell them that you have loved them since the day they were born.  Tell them that they are perfect and beautiful and full of wonder and possibility and hope and love.  Tell them that their love can transform the world.  Tell them to be open to love.  Tell them that their future is so bright and that they have so much to look forward to, even when it seems like life is unbearably hard.  Tell them that sometimes life won't go their way.  That there will be dark days but that it's okay.  Tell them that it will get better.  It always gets better. Tell them that you will help them, that you will always be there for them.  Tell them that you will listen to their words, that you will see them for who they are, that you will always love and support them.  Look them in they eye and tell them that you mean it.  Hug them.  Kiss them.  Make them strong and powerful with your words of love, so that they can go out into the world and tell the Tylers and Seths and Ashers and Billys what they know to be true - that love can heal.  That they are not alone.  That they are strong and beautiful souls with every right to be here.

We all have a right to be here.  We all have a right to be loved, and to love.  We all have a right to live.

Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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