A young girl and a young male stood together in the picture, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders as they stared into the camera. Both smiling.
“You would never believe that this girl and this guy was suffering from anxiety related problems. But who would have guessed that the previous people had any problems?” Marie shrugged her shoulders, trying to release some of the tension. “Any type of mental illness can be hidden from the naked eye. They are not as noticeable as someone with a missing limb. And yet, I want you to imagine one of these two young people in your class. They are having an anxiety attack and everyone is laughing at them. Everyone is pointing fingers, snickering, and yelling crude words to them. This makes everything worse. I want you to take a step in their shoes and think of how they felt. Nothing good, I can reassure you.”
With another click of the bottom, Marie watched as more pictures popped up onto the screen. Another male and another female. One white and the other black. Both different in sexuality. “Now, you see these two incredible people? The woman on the left has been made fun of all because of her skin color. Why would someone make fun of another because of their ethnicity? Well, this young girl has pained about all the rejections to multiple relationships just because of her complexion. Just because she was born a different skin color from the rest of us.” With the remote, Marie pressed the small red button next to the larger one. A red laser circled the picture to the right. “Now you see this young man? He was made fun of because of his sexuality. Yes, he liked the same sex and he was bullied for it. This boy committed suicide that night, all because he liked boys. He was told by so many that he would never be loved and that he was better off dying. That was all it took in order for this young man to take his own life. What has our society turned us into?
“I want you all to know that yes, it is the littlest actions that mean so much in the end. You may think that you know the person next to you, but do you really? You may think you do but that person, your best friend even, does not tell you everything. You may never even know that secret until it’s too late. Everybody has feelings, no matter how different they may be from you and I. Those feelings still matter just as much as that person does.”
Two more males appeared on the screen before her and Marie inhaled.
“I want you all to look at these two teens. They both seem to be living a perfect life. The saying, a picture is worth a thousand words comes to my mind. But would any of you have guessed that the male on the left was struggling financially to keep up his family. That he had been made fun of because of the clothing on his back. All because he was wearing the same clothes that he had on the previous week. This kid worked every single day. He went to work straight after school and would work until 2 am every morning. He helped his family when their income was limited and even had to go without food, along with his siblings. To believe that there were kids who had the nerve to bully him for the way he dressed? Not everyone can afford Gucci or Michael Kor accessories, I hope you all know.”
With the pointer, Marie circled the boy to the right.
“None of you would ever describe this boy as a victim of abuse. I want you all to imagine all the times he was made fun of because he was always out, or was always hurt. How he couldn’t do a lot of things because of an injury that was unknown by others. Everyday, this boy would have to go home to an abusive family, who didn’t care whether or not he lived or died. Not only did everyone else degrade him but his family beat him until he had enough. He became tired of the people who bullied him and his family who never ceased their toil. No one knew his struggle and he only saw one way out of it. That was the night when another kid had lost his life to a broken society.”
With the last click of the button, the screen turned black behind Marie and she stared out to the audience. Through the bright haze of the light, Marie could see that some tears were shed and most of the students were impacted by the long speech. Even the teachers had a look on their faces that read so many words.
“As I have said before, you don’t know the person who you are sitting next to. You may never know as much as you think you do.” Marie spoke into the microphone after what felt like forever. She was prepared for the end of this long lecture. “Bullying is never the greatest option when it comes to communication with others. Remember, you are the upcoming generation that will change this world for either the greater good or bad. I want to leave you all with a piece of advice. Keep an open mind to the situation that a person may be struggling in and treat other’s how you would want to be treated. No one is the same and everyone takes things differently. Be kind and keep in mind that anything you say or do to a person can either be your upbringing or their downfall. Your actions can lead to different consequences and how you act is all up to you.”
Marie took a step closer to the audience.
“Last thing, if you or someone you know is being bullied, there is help. Please, don’t wait for someone to notice, take action and make sure to let someone know. I understand, it may seem difficult but everything becomes easier when you tell someone you trust.” Marie gave a small smile “I want to thank you all and it was a pleasure to speak here today.“ Bowing slightly, Marie turned away from the audience and headed towards the exit, where the principal stood. A few people clapped behind her and Marie handed the microphone to the principal, who clapped her on the back.
“You did a wonderful job, Marie.” He whispered before taking the stage.
“Thank you.” Marie replied.