Thank you, Hava Holzhauer, for expressing this so well: The holidays are full of fun and good cheer - and I love the holidays! But throughout the rest of the year, it is not enough only to recognize joy and light and beauty - we must also recognize that which is not so pretty, and step in and speak out against it.
This week a video surfaced in my community showing several girls surrounding another girl while she is physically pounded - most of the girls in the video were watching this beating occur and doing nothing to stop it. The incident took place in west Boca Raton - and the girls were young high schoolers - around 14 years old. It got me to thinking about how a person becomes the one who speaks up (or doesn’t speak up)...about how we teach children to do this...and about how so many adults fail in this way over and over again.
Take the sexual harassment issue which is on fire right now; when I checked the numbers earlier this week, about 70 major players in politics, hollywood and business had been named with credible allegations against them. And since these stories went public, people have come out in force supporting the victims and slamming the harassers. What is both fascinating and disturbing to me...is to think about how many people knew something not good (to say the least) was going on...and how so, so few ever said anything about it. So few who bore witness ever spoke up. ...Imagine if more adults said something...stood up when it wasn’t popular...spoke up when they weren’t sure they would be taken seriously. ...Parallel to the pervasiveness of adult persons failing to step in or speak up, I find it interesting that efforts in self-help, self-care, kindness and combatting hate and bullying are simultaneously exploding.
For clarity, when I speak here about stepping in and speaking up, I am not talking about working in soup kitchens, collecting donations, attending fundraising events - which are all very good, important things to do. I am talking about sticking one’s neck out for a colleague at work who may be being treated unfairly - about reaching out to a neighbor who doesn’t look so great and may be in trouble - about calling out a popular community leader who is also a chauvinist or unkind to his staff - about deciding that it is not okay to overlook our leaders, whether they be in business, non-profit, government, the classroom or in our social circles, and about holding them to standards we expect for ourselves and for our children. I have seen this failure in my own community. We would rather go along to get along. We prefer to overlook unhealthy practices of ‘upstanding’ community members and leaders - because it is easier to overlook it. And only when it is staring us in the face - because an overt wrong is brought to light by a victim - do we jump up in agreement and shake our heads at the wrongs committed. ...Yet we knew. We knew something wasn’t right long before...but we ignored it and took the easy road. So...why on earth do we expect our 14 year old girls to be better than we are?
For me this holiday season, I am doubling down - checking myself to make sure I never go along to get along in the face of someone else being wronged - and I am checking in on same with my kids. I am suggesting that we need to practice a deeper layer of kindness - a deeper layer of loving thy neighbor - by standing up and stepping in when it is hard to do - when it puts our own friendships, reputations, jobs at risk. When more of us do this, we really will reverberate positive change. When more of us do this, fewer teenage girls will find it okay to stand around and watch while another human being is being destroyed.