Dan Pearce is a single father who blogs at Single Dad Laughing about his and his son’s “sometimes crazy, sometimes lame, hopefully sometimes interesting lives.” In Dan’s own words, “I tend to say whatever’s on my mind, for better or for worse. I tend to get all emotional and crazy and happy and sappy. I have a gift for ruffling feathers. I hope I have a gift for making people think and helping spread worthwhile ways of looking at things.”
Dan writes on a variety of subjects, often in a humorous way. Born in 1980, he’s a relatively young man. But his wisdom goes far beyond his years, as I learned last week when I discovered essays that are thought provoking, moving, commonsense, and wise. The subject: bullying. Because, beginning in fifth grade, Dan Pearce was a victim.
In his post “Memoirs of a Bullied Kid,” Dan describes his experience, then makes a suggestion that we reach out to the bullies as well as to their targets:
“And so, I will ask you now to not hate the bullies. Experience tells me that hating them, or being angry with them, will always make it worse. Instead, put your arm around them. Love them. Tell them that they are valuable. Tell them that you expect great things from them. They will stop the bullying. They will stop, because they will start to love themselves. And people who love themselves don’t bully others.
“And with the bullies, it’s really that simple. If they actually believe that somebody loves them and believes in them, they will love themselves, they will become better people, and many will even become saviors to the bullied.”
Dan also mentions that few bullied young people tell anyone about their situation, not their parents, classmates, teachers, counselors, or coaches. And if only one of those people took notice of the child’s anguish and reached out to the sufferer, further pain and suffering might be prevented.
“… it’s not generally the bullies that are killing themselves, slaughtering their schoolmates, or building bombs in their bedrooms. It’s the bullied that are doing that. And my heart literally is pounding through my chest right now because I know just how easy it would have been to prevent most of these incidents. I also know all too well, the consuming thoughts that constantly go through the minds of the bullied.”
This is precisely the message I wrote about in my post “Down and Dirty Rockers Take on Bullying,” the message rock and roll band Doug Ratner and the Watchmen share in their song “Bomb in the Backseat,” which has caused so much controversy that a television station banned the group from further appearances. (See “Rockers Against Bullying Get the Boot.”)
Dan goes on to say,
“So many kids would still be alive right now, if somebody, anybody, would have done something.So many beautiful, incredible, wonderful souls would still be walking among us if somebody, anybody, would have done something.…
“So, please, I beg you. If you’re an adult, put your arm around your own kids. Put your arm around your neighbor’s kids. Put your arm around every kid you can. If you’re a student, put your arm around the bully and the bullied. You simply don’t know what person needs to feel like somebody loves her. You simply don’t know what person’s life you will save by showing him that, today, you care. And tomorrow you’ll still care.…
“Please. Today, do something to save our youth from this terrible disease. Today, find a child or a classmate who is timid, shy, closed-off, or sad and do something, anything to help him or her feel love. Today, change the future for somebody incredible.”
There is a lot more of substance in Dan’s post. I’ve excerpted only a few comments from the five pages and I urge you to read the entire essay, as well as Dan’s subsequent post, “Bullies. ‘their not even human.’ ” The comments that followed the original “Memoirs” post were heartbreaking, and Dan addresses them in this one.
(I won’t go into the way society cautions against adults and teachers offering the kind of comfort Dan is recommending. I wonder if there is a correlation between the increase in school violence and the edict against teachers hugging their students. When I taught, hugs were allowed. I can’t imagine not being able to comfort one of my first or third graders by wrapping them in my arms. How do junior and high school teachers bear it?)
Dan’s next post on bullying, “Less Talk. More Walk,” discusses a misunderstanding that arose from the original “Memoirs.” Some readers thought he was leaving it up to the victims to end their torment by urging them to reach out to the bullies. Not so, wrote Dan:
“It is your job as parents, teachers, neighbors, youth advisers, and especially classmates, to offer each bullied kid an environment of trust. It is your job to create a safe place where they will find their voices. It is your job to fill each bullied child with empowerment and sufficient levels of self-love so that they can rise above their situations.
“Stop leaving the burden of fixing this on the bullied kids. That line of thinking is arrogant and self-serving, and quite frankly, lazy.”
In “Your @#&*% just might be the product of you,” Dan addresses the fact that most parents are willing to admit that their child is being bullied, but very few will admit that their child is a bully. Perhaps it’s time, Dan says, for parents to step up and take responsibility for their child’s behavior.
“What if the parent of a bully said, ‘my son might be part of the problem. I’m going to figure out why, and I’ll do whatever it takes to fix it,’ instead of “my son is not part of the problem. It is just kids being kids.…
“How do we not see? Our @&*% often is the product of us, at least partially. And until we all start admitting it, we aren’t going to see anything get better.”
In “The most troubling thing I’ve ever shared here on Single Dad Laughing…,” Dan touches on the lasting pain of having been bullied. The pain doesn’t end when you become an adult, so neither should the discussion:
“You see, as I work to make myself a good person, a better person, and the best damn person I can be, I have learned that all the darknesses of my teenage and adult life have been connected in one way or another to the bullying that I received when I was younger. I believe the bullying discussion shouldn’t end at high school. It shouldn’t really end at all. And anybody who has been bullied in the past who will tell you that it doesn’t affect them now, is simply unaware of how the pieces connect in their own lives. Because once you’ve been bullied, to some degree it affects you forever.”
In “Bullied, The Forgotten Memoirs,” Dan goes into how he has been affected over the long term and includes seventeen links to his experiences as a victim of bullying.
In one of his most moving posts, “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay,” Dan says we should reach out, not only to bullies or LGBT people, but also to anyone who is not accepted for being themselves, anyone who appears marginalized or dismissed. In a discussion with a young man, Dan was told,
“You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know what it’s like to live here and be gay. You don’t know what it’s like to have freaking nobody. You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”
How do you respond to that?”
Dan’s answer comes from the scriptures of every major religion:
“The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for all happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said, love everybody except for the gays. Love everybody except for the homeless. Love everybody except for the drug users. Love everybody except for the gang members, or those covered in ink, or the spouse abusers. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody with the exception of the ‘trailer trash,’ those living in poverty, or the illegal immigrants. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody except for our ex-lovers, our lovers’ ex lovers, or our ex-lovers’ lovers. The mandate was pretty damn clear, wasn’t it?
Love one another. Simple. Direct. Dan’s message isn’t new. But he states it from his heart.
“Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs right.
It has everything to do with being a good human being. A good person. A good friend.
To put our arm around somebody who is different. Why is that so hard?”
It shouldn’t be hard. And it should get easier with practice.
Last week, Dan received a follow up to an earlier post. He wrote about it in “A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay.” A Christian mother wrote that her son had been given an assignment to respond to Dan’s essay. The mother’s reaction had not been positive. She believed Dan’s post was an attack on the family’s beliefs and that Dan was promoting homosexuality. Against her wishes, her son wrote the essay. His words changed his life and his mother’s life.
“You see, Mr. Pearce,” wrote the mother, “you are right. It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them. Nothing else matters at all. And it took all of this for that to finally sink in.”
I’m not going to reveal the contents of the young man’s essay. Please, go to Single Dad Laughing and read the complete blog post of “A Teen’s Response,” as well as the other posts linked here. I believe they will move you. Make you shed a tear. And, perhaps, change you. For the better.
P.S. I’ve quoted freely from Dan Pearce’s posts here, but since he encourages his readers to share, I’m certain he would be comfortable with this usage.