Bullying is something every person has been a part of. The bully, the one being bullied or the witness, every person played at least one of those roles at sometime in life. While my heart does go out to those who are the victims, I have never been in that position. The bully has never been my star role, either; I've always been the witness - the bystander who uncomfortably watches someone go through what seems like torture in school.
I always thought that as long as one isn't the bully or the bullied, they should just stay out of the scene all together. What if you get yourself involved and by doing so you get bullied yourself? What if you loose your friends because you're standing up for the kid being bullied? What if it doesn't help at all? What if it makes things worse? My thoughts changed after observing an innocent bystander stand up for a kid being bullied at my high school.
"Hey, want some gum?" I turned my head in the courtyard of my high school to see who was yelling to a small, gangly kid. The boy being bullied was the stereotypical high school awkward child. His hair went every which way and was a fluffy mess. His glasses sat sideways on his nose and made one eye seem bigger than the other. To complete the gawky look, he was extremely skinny and didn't seem to have a muscle on his body as he walked by the group of "popular kids," who all sat in the courtyard outside on top of a metal picnic table. Even if the Arizona weather hit 115 degrees, they sat on top of that hot table. As they asked him about the gum, he turned his head and a smile appeared on his face, forcing his glasses to become even more crooked. The boy walked back to the picnic table, where the boys sat in order of social "importance." Sitting in the middle of all of the boys was their main man, who also happened to be the main bully. Just a look from him could make you feel picked on. Sprouting out from the main bully was the rest of the popular kids, who seemed to go down in size and stature until the end of the table. The main bully handed their victim a piece of gum, wrapper and all. After thanking the bully, he popped the piece in his mouth and began chewing. The bully threw his head back, slammed his hands on the table like two hammers and began laughing uncontrollably. The awkward kid looked at all of the boys on the table and slowly started to smile; he didn't understand what was happening. Once the main bully could catch his breath and form a sentence, he said he had put that piece of gum down his pants and put it back in the wrapper, making it look untouched. The look on the victim's face was inexplicable. The look of hurt was in his eyes.
I couldn't help but feel for him. Just as I was about to walk away, a boy who was also viewing the harassment walked over to the scene and told the "popular guys" that what they did was wrong. The boys walked away from their table without saying a word. As the days went on, the boys kept their distance from the others that they had been intimidating. The bullying had stopped. I was astonished.
After that, although I tried my hardest to call out bullies whenever I saw them preying on the weak, it was a hard task. It is extremely hard to stand up to bullies. Most bullies either are vicious looking; usually they have a large stature and walk around like they know something nobody else knows. Walking up to someone like that and telling them that they are wrong is terrifying. There were times after the incident when I would see bullying and I knew that I should say something, but I just couldn't because I was just not brave enough.
I now truly believe that being a bystander who takes action is more powerful than the bullying. Being the victim of bullying makes a person humiliated and miserable. If someone is brave enough to bring themselves into the picture and stick up for the sufferer, the bullying will stop. A bystander who witnesses the bullying and doesn't do a single thing about it is just as bad as the bully. Who would've thought that my thinking would have changed with an offering of gum?
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Christine Lee graduated from Seton Catholic Prepatory last year. She is currently enrolled at Chandler/Gilbert Community College and is looking forward to completing her studies at Arizona State University next year.