Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
Sometimes you can see a person’s soul in a photograph, rarely can you see a person’s demons.
I first heard the name of Kayla Meeker last Friday via some text and Facebook messages. It was shocking to read the details of how her life ended and see screenshot after screenshot of a young person being bullied.
Then I saw her face, and knew the world lost an incredible soul. There was something great behind her smile, you can’t fake that love of life. Sadly we will have no idea on what her life could have been, it ended way too soon.
The worst fear of being a parent is the loss of a child. I can not imagine the pain and anguish of losing a child via their own hand.
The Meeker family has made public statements that bullying was not the reason for Kayla’s choice. When someone makes the conscious decision to end their time with us, their motives are never clear nor easy to accept. Kayla was dealing with things we will never understand.
Although the family, who are in shock and are mourning, doesn’t believe bullying was a factor, I do. The barrage of public abuse Kayla suffered on social media was awful. You can clearly see a girl who is horribly affected by words sent via a Tweet, or text message; Anonymous Twitter accounts set up by cowardly bullies whom are too young to understand the potential power of every word said or typed, helped pushed a troubled soul over the edge. The tweets were throwing gasoline on someone dealing with demons, someone holding a mental match.
Drama = Bullying
There is something about High School where Drama isn’t only an elective class, but a way of life. It is crystal clear that drama fills the halls of Anthony Wayne High School as it does countless others.
“Drama” is an inadvertent tool that children use to take the focus off of learning, they often believe it is a part of “the High School experience”. Some are very good at dealing and creating it, while others are obviously not.
High School Drama always has a victim; whether it’s a person who is having rumors spread about them or someone dealing with issues at home or in life. Drama conversations often start with “OMG did you hear..”, “You won’t believe this.…” or “Someone just told me…”.
The use of the word “Drama” is an evolved prettier version of what it actually means… Bullying. Parents will often ask their children about the current “drama” happening at the school, rarely do they use the word “bullying”.
Why does it happen, why is bullying so frequent and rampant? Why is it becoming an epidemic that is claiming young lives? The Answer is… It’s the underdeveloped id portion of young brains that give children a guilty pleasure while spreading drama, rumors, or lies. Poking fun or making light of others is a great way to cover one’s own insecurities. The simpler answer is… Kid’s brains believe it is a form of fun and entertainment.
The art of bullying has evolved from wedgies and taking of lunch monies; to setting up fake Twitter and Instagram accounts. The old way took a little bit of courage or crazy, the new ways only need internet access. Kayla was a victim of the new way of bullying.
Attention Drama Creators, Sharers, Rumor Spreaders or more simply put… Bullies:
Of all the tools you can learn how to master, from swinging a hammer to writing software code, understanding and knowing how to use words will be most important. Fully comprehending the power of a word, can make your life picture perfect or heartbreakingly tragic.
When you bully someone with words you steal a piece of their identity, self-confidence and self-worth. What you may believe is a little bit of “harmless fun” may change the way another person looks at the world, at life. Think about that for a moment… your joke about the fat kid being fat, can change the way they look or feel about people. Your joke about a girl who is “hooking up” with certain guys may forever change the way she feels about intimacy or trust.
What you think is entertaining during a 5-minute bus ride home from school, may travel with your victim for the rest of their life.
I used to be a bus ride bully. I do not have a bad heart, I thought I was being funny. I was getting laughs, some attention. I later came to the conclusion that my behavior or jokes were not funny, but instead very mean. I bullied classmates so badly, they decided to walk the 5 miles home from school and forgo the bus ride abuse.
I get nervous every time I pick up the newspaper and read the obituaries, afraid I might see a certain name or two. My other nightmare is the thought of my “jokes” may have stolen my victim’s self-worth; maybe I robbed them of enough courage that do not ask the potential love of their life out on a date or maybe I stole enough of their inner strength to chase their dream job or calling.
I live with these fears and regrets everyday. This is the beginning of my asshole past, where I am still struggling today to right my karma.
This very moment in Anthony Wayne High School there are 16, 17, and maybe 18 year olds who are looking at a lifetime of regret from a joke, a rumor or fake Twitter page they created.
The next time you begin to bully, make fun of a student, spread a lie… think of Kayla’s face, imagine her smile, the glimmer in her eyes; then visualize the moment when the smile disappeared and glimmer became tears as life became too much for her. Hold on to that awful feeling, you may save a life.
Please #StandUpForKayla. Please end this nonsense before it is too late. Please Stop Bullying.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” -Luke 23:34.