Back in the late 1990s, a pair of students at a Nova Scotia high school started something special.
A Grade 9 boy at Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge, who remains unnamed, wore a pink shirt on the first day of class. Some of his classmates didn’t like that and bullied the child for his choice that day.
Two other boys took it upon themselves to stand up for him, though.
They went to the local thrift store and bought 50 pink shirts to pass around at school the next day in solidarity. They would not just stand by and let a few bad apples spoil the bunch, as they say.
By all accounts, the bullies didn’t go back to their old tricks, even after the hubbub that followed settled down. It took seeing that they were the odd ones out and that the predominant outlook of the world was that of compassion, acceptance and empathy – rather than hate, belittlement and mockery – for them to change their ways.
The movement took hold, and now every Feb. 25, pink shirts are worn by those who would take a stand against these negative ideals.
More importantly than the colour of the attire, however, is that people are taking a stand against those who would bring others down to bring themselves up.
We need to do this every day.
Celebrating it once a year is not enough. Wearing pink to recognize the problem is not enough.
It’s a start, though, and I’m in no way downplaying the role that initiatives like Pink Shirt Day have in building awareness for causes – but we can do more.
Over the past decade or so, we’ve been hearing increasingly frequent reports of our young people committing suicide because of bullying. Sure, there is heated debate amongst scholars and researchers about whether these links are direct enough to boil the loss of these lives down to direct causation. Because of the myriad challenges faced by people every day, who can say one thing is more relevant or has more negative impact than another when tragedies like this occur?
One thing is clear, however, at least to me: we can make a positive difference in people’s lives by intervening when someone is being treated badly.
Good people must stand up for what is right in order for the wrong to go away.
On Wednesday there were an abundance of pink shirts around, as I’m sure you noticed. But personally, I’m hoping there were even more instances of someone standing up to injustice, violence, belittlement or hate.
While wearing a specific colour on a specific day is a nice thing to do to spread awareness of a cause, what’s more important is taking action to address the problem of which you’re attempting to raise that awareness.
When you see someone doing something that you don’t think belongs in our society, do something about it. Stand up for what is right.
It’s a message we should be passing on to our children through leading by example. Maybe one day we won’t be hearing stories about people like Rehtaeh Parsons (died April 4, 2013 after hanging herself at the age of 17 in Dartmouth, NS), Amanda Todd (died of unreleased causes, reported by some media as a hanging, Oct. 10, 2012, Port Coquitlam, B.C.), Todd Loik (died Sept. 8, 2013 of unreleased causes in North Battleford, Sask.), Dawn-Marie Wesley (died Nov. 10, 2000 at 14 years of age after hanging herself in Mission, B.C.), and all the other children we’ve lost through the years.
We need to rise up against negativity so that our young people see that it’s no way to live.
Though we’ve lost far too many of our children already, it’s never too late to save others.