When I was in first grade, there was a new girl at school.
She came from far away, some place called Texas. She spoke funny. She dressed funny. She had huge glasses and uneven teeth. She was ridiculed and insulted and called names for everything she was, everything she could not control. I found her at recess, hiding in the tunnel, and sobbing. I found her, and I sat with her, and I told her I liked her accent. I complimented her dress. I told her that her glasses were my favorite color, and I showed her how crooked my own teeth were.
We were best friends for the next 5 years.
When I was in sixth grade, everything changed.
We were in a new school, a Middle School. I spoke with words that were too big. I dressed in clothes that were too modest. I had big glasses and uneven teeth. I was ridiculed and insulted and called names for everything I was, everything I could not control. My best friend found me in the hallway, sobbing by my locker. She found me, and she insulted me, and she slammed my head into a locker. And she laughed at me.
I had no friends that year.
That year, I was in the 8th grade orchestra, because of a scheduling conflict with my gifted classes. I was tiny. I had huge glasses and uneven teeth. And I worked my ass off to keep up with kids who had been playing for years longer than I had. And it showed. Slowly, slowly, I earned my way to the second chair, in spite of everything.
That day was the first time I was locked in the instrument closet.
I went to put my things away, and a big eighth grader named John closed the door behind me, and locked it. I was trapped. I tried not to panic, and instead pulled my violin back out, and in the tiny space, I made music until the teacher found me an hour later and let me out.
It was to become a daily occurrence.
Everyday, I'd try to get there early. I would put my things away, and try to get out first. And everyday, I was locked in anyway. Sometimes, I was shoved. Sometimes, I was physically lifted and placed inside. And everyday, I'd try to contain my panic as I heard the lock click into place.
And everyday, I'd play music until my teacher let me out. Sometimes after only a few minutes. Sometimes after more than an hour. Everyone else in the class knew it was happening. The teacher knew it was happening.
Not one person ever tried to stop it. Not once.
There is a reason I cannot abide a bully.
But even more, I cannot abide a person who stands by and watches the bully, and does nothing.
And if you don't understand the relevance this has to current events, then you're not really paying attention.
They had their reasons. They were too worried about their own lives. Too unwilling to give up the mirage of power from being on the same side as the bully. Too scared of what he'd do to them if they spoke up. Too caught up in their own lives to bother helping me.
But I would have helped them. Just as I had once helped that sobbing little girl in the tunnel. The one who would later forget the kindness in exchange for a selfish taste of the power of fitting in.
I would help you.