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When it comes to kids, let’s get out hands dirty and ‘Bring it Home’

“As Dr. King taught us, if the arc of history bends toward justice – and I believe it does – then it bends not by its own weight but by the hands of those who dare to reach; humble hands; ordinary, everyday hands; hands like mine; hands like yours.” These words are those of Associate Attorney General Tony West at the MLK Day Celebration hosted by the Union League of Chicago.

West’s point is simple, but also hard. Justice cannot come through time alone, but needs our active support. This is true in a host of everyday situations that we find disturbing, mean or unjust. Our hands need to get dirty if we want to “tip the scales.”

When youth are asked if they would come to the aid of a friend being bullied or harassed, statistically, 70 percent said they would. In our own community, of 81 kids asked so far, 94 percent said they would get involved or tell someone. That is hopeful and promising. Yet, on the “playing field” of life, bystanders actually get involved only 20 percent of the time (Family Resource Facilitation Program). The difference between our vision for our own best behavior, and our reality, is huge. If 75 of our anonymous 81 youth intend to get involved and help a friend, only 16 actually do.

The belief is that kids don’t get involved because while they don’t like seeing bullying, and while they want to help, they don’t know how.

We can add one more tool to their toolkit. One campaign out of Canada, the White Ribbon Campaign, speaks of the “Bring it Home” technique. This is one we can all use ourselves in our lives but can also be taught to our children. Let’s say I hear a friend say “My gosh, she wears that black sweater every day. Is she so broke she can’t change her clothes?” Ouch. Most of us, if we heard that, would cringe and want to step up. How?

“Ouch, what if someone said that about you and that corny bracelet you wear every day that your grandmother gave you? It means a lot to you, but someone who doesn’t know you wouldn’t know why.”

Perhaps a friend sees someone they find attractive. Instead of saying, directly, “wow, I find her attractive” or even “she stops me in my tracks,” you hear, “I’d like to get me some of that!” Bring it home, “Man, as your friend I’ve got to beg you to throw out that phrase, it’ll hurt your image. What if someone said that about Jess? You’d be ripped!”

Just like the one thousand other life skills we need to find time to teach our children, these can be done over time, repetitively, as life presents opportunities.

You can “bring it home” with your kids or kids you nurture as if they are yours. You can practice and ask them for ideas too. “What if someone said that about your sister at school, how would you ‘Bring it Home?’ ” Let’s get our hands dirty, one skill at a time.

Sharlene Kerelejza is executive director of Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis Inc.



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