Buddy, Not Bully

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Little by little. A flood starts with a drop of water. A beach begins with a grain of sand. A novel opens with a single word. I don’t have to tell you we live in a stressed-out world that leaves an individual wondering what one person could possibly do. I’ve seen a couple of efforts lately that make me think it may come to little by little. 

On a morning news show recently, I saw the story of Natalie Hampton. She had regularly eaten lunch alone and experienced bullying and harassment to the point that she changed schools. She found the isolation of eating alone the worst part of her experience. In her new school, she began to invite students she saw eating alone to join her at her table. Soon she and her invitees had close friends. 

Seeing the difference the friendships made and the fact that the bullying was stymied since bullies regularly pick on loners, she took her idea further and created an app called “Sit With Us” that has gone viral and makes it easy for students to find a welcoming table at lunch. 

The second effort comes from buddy benches. Carrie Paup, one of my long ago second graders and now a parent who lost a fourteen-year-old daughter to Aicardi Syndrome, along with her family donated a Buddy Bench to the school her daughter attended in her memory. I found it typical of the second grader I remember since even then Carrie consistently reached out in friendship, especially to those who seemed alone. My pictures today, thanks to grandmother Bonnie Bruno, are of Macey’s grandparents on the bench and Macey's cousin, a boy who seems to know the purpose of the bench.

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Neither of these efforts will solve the Middle East crises or bring peace in Korea, nor will they address real mental illness. You might say they are “littles” in the scheme of things. But what if a junior high or high school student on one day has someone to share a conversation at lunch or what if a child who is alone finds a companion to sit with at recess? And what if either of these turns into a longtime friendship? And what if we add our little to their little? I’m thinking a flood is possible.