I was young when I first understood what it meant to “put yourself” in someone else’s shoes. Those words changed the way I thought. They taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life and set me on the road to being a writer. It’s a simple concept, putting yourself in someone’s shoes. It takes empathy to wear what they wear, walk where they walk, see what they see, live the way they live. What I heard in those words was: Everyone has a story. But when we see their story from where we’re perched, we don’t see it with their clarity, we don’t get the emotion. We have to use our imagination. We have to put on their shoes.
I watched this video last night for Pink’s song “Fuckin’ Perfect.” The pain was so vivid I cried. See, I was a fat kid. My last name was Fetner. So,with the replacement of one vowel, my name became a torture device. Somehow, I walked away intact. These days, if you listen to the news, read the paper, surf the internet, go to the schools, you’ll hear about the ones who weren’t as lucky as I was.
Is bullying happening more often? I can’t find statistics. Are the incidents more ruthless? I believe they are. And if you think the problem is mostly with boys, talk to the girls at your elementary school.
They hurt each other. And they start early.
I know bullying will never stop completely. Our only hope of curbing it is to teach our children to understand the pain it causes, to imagine what it must be like wearing the shoes of the one being hurt.