Then there was "Cassie" (all names have been changed). She had moved into a house on our street, and tried to make friends with us. My best friend Anna was the leader of our group and she had dubbed Cassie uncool and someone we didn't want to hang out with. There was really nothing wrong with her--she was a cute, sweet, and nice girl, but because we just took Anna's word for good, we treated Cassie like dirt. Cassie would come over to play and we'd run and hide. We'd tell her to go home when she came to play with us, or if she did end up playing with us, she always got the role of the "bad guy" or something unwanted, us hoping that she'd just get the hint or get sick of playing the bad guy and leave.
One of our favorite activities was riding in the back of Anna's dad's truck. It had a covering, and he'd drive us around the local streets as we got to slide around in the back of the truck. It was fun, and as a child it seemed exhilarating, but I doubt Anna's dad ever went very fast and I know it wasn't dangerous or my parents wouldn't have let me go. We knew how to hold on or stay in place when the truck would go faster or turn.
One day, much to our disdain, Cassie wanted to come. We tried to talk her out of it, saying it wasn't very fun, it was kind of scary, and she wouldn't really like it. But she wasn't persuaded, and so Anna and the rest of us came up with a plan that would make her not want to ride with us again. Though we all knew how to stay safe in the truck, Cassie didn't, and we kept that information privy to ourselves. It was all fun and games until we turned a corner fast, and Cassie suddenly went flying across the back of the truck. We were all screaming, she was crying, and there was blood. It turned out to just be a bloody nose, but it was traumatizing for Cassie and for the rest of us. We hadn't ever intended for her to get hurt, and yet she had. Anna's dad took her home, we never saw her again, and about a month or so later, we'd heard that Cassie had moved. I don't think the adults knew it was on purpose, but even so we never rode in that truck again.
Fast forward to a few years later to 3rd or 4th grade. I was still friends with Anna and the same group of girls, but Anna had decidedly bumped me from the best friend slot, replacing me with two of our other friends. I called her one day, asking if I could go over to play, and she said her mom wasn't letting friends come over that day. A little later, I looked out the window and saw those two friends walking over and into Anna's house. I was confused and hurt. I told my mom, and she said that maybe Anna's mom had changed her mind, and suggested I just go over and ask if I could play. I went over, and Anna's mom let me in and told me they were downstairs, but when I went, Anna got angry and told me that she'd already said I couldn't come over. She stated that I could be there, but they didn't want me there and weren't going to play with me if I stayed. I ran home crying to my mom.
The next day I went to school and tried to talk to my friends, but they all said, "Anna said we shouldn't be friends with you anymore." When I asked why, they had no explanation, except that Anna had said so. I was devastated and went home that day, crying to my mom once again. I had no idea why these girls suddenly didn't want to be my friends. Was there something wrong with me? Had I suddenly become very weird and uncool? We had been best friends for years and I didn't get it. A few days later, it all blew over and we became friends again, and for the most part, I let it go, just happy to have my friends back.
Seventh grade came. I was excited to be in junior high school and while I was still best friends with the same group of girls, one of them being Anna, they were still in elementary school because I was a grade older than them. I went to school with some girls in my young women group who were just a year or so older than me, and who I was pretty good friends with as well. We had a very small youth group so it was easy for us all to be close friends.
I looked up to these girls, but to them, I must have seemed younger and annoying. Every once in a while they'd tease me, and I took it, knowing they were just joking, maybe being just a little mean. I had no other friends and I was very very insecure and small, so they were really all I had. The teasing got worse. It was nothing ever too extreme, but some days they'd tell me to meet them in the library or at lunch, and they'd ditch me, as I could find them no where to be found. I was in the school musical, "Into the Woods," as Rapunzel, and the guy who had been paired with me as my prince (we'll call him Ben) was two years older than me, not super attractive, and a little awkward. He was nice and I had nothing against him, but the girls would always tease me about liking him and one day they got a picture of me, wrote "I love Ben" on it, and put it in Ben's locker. They told me to lighten up, saying it was just a joke, but I was angry and so humiliated.
The teasing happened at mutual, our weekly youth group nights, as well. Because our group was so small, there weren't many other girls there that I was friends with so the teasing kept happening. It was hard because my mom was the young women president, and loved these girls like her own daughters. They really were nice girls, and they were practically best friends with my mom, so I rarely felt like I could complain about the teasing or ditching at school, because I was afraid she'd take their side. When they teased me at mutual, they made it seem like it was a joke or like it was no big deal, and that's what my mom and the other leaders thought it was. I never wanted to freak out or complain because I thought nobody would take my side or they'd just tell me to deal with it, because it was all just joking and good fun. It wasn't until my mom noticed me missing at an activity and found me crying in the bathroom that she realized it wasn't a joke to me and it wasn't okay. I don't know if she talked to them or not, but two of those girls went to high school soon after and my friends from elementary started going to the junior high, so the teasing pretty much stopped. A little while later, my family was also building a house and we ended up moving. I grew apart from those friends, though we still talk and stay in touch, and made new ones.
We've all either been bullied or been the bully. Maybe both. One of the reasons this has been such a talked about topic lately is because everyone can relate to it in one way or another. It might happen with people you don't even know, or like me, it might happen within your own friend group. I wish I would have stood up to Anna about Cassie. I wish I would have trusted my mom enough to tell her sooner about all the teasing I was going through.
It's really easy to live our lives and accept things the way they are. Accept that if someone says something, it must be so. Accept that if someone is making fun of or bullying us, there is nothing we can do to change it. But nothing is stagnant. There is always something we can change. We should never just accept things without taking a second look at them and wondering if that's how things really should be or if there is something we can do to make them better.
This video has been going around, and I think it has a really great message. Watch it, share it, and follow its message.
"There's enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment." Instead of contributing more darkness, let's add some light to this world and make a change.