Dumbo ambles over to the group of other elephants. He was just separated from his mother and is looking for some company. "Pretend you don't see him," one of the elephants says as they all turn their backs on him. Dejected and hurt, Dumbo turns to leave. However, an observant little circus mouse named Timothy sees this exchange and springs into action. "Poor little guy," he says. "Look at that, not a friend in the world." Outraged at the elephants' cruelty, he responds, "I'll do something about this!"
And so the story continues. Timothy becomes Dumbo's friend and stands up for him and defends him over and over again as Dumbo is picked on by elephants, humiliated by clowns, and laughed at by crows, just because he has big ears. Through thick and thin, Timothy remains. Not only does he defend Dumbo, he sees the beauty where others do not. The same ears that others think are big and "dumb," he tells Dumbo are beautiful. He sees and nurtures Dumbo's potential. The ears that everyone called him a "freak" and "the laughing stock of the circus" for, the ears that made him different, those same ears end up making him famous - the world's only flying elephant! Dumbo is reunited with his mother and they live happily ever after!
This is a beautiful story of true friendship, and has a wonderful ending. But it makes me wonder, how would this story have played out if it had not been for our true hero - Timothy the circus mouse?
The sad truth is, I think we see this story end differently everyday because there are so very few Timothys in our world.
Unfortunately, bullying and cruelty is just a part of this fallen world. We can be overly idealistic and think that by holding pep rallies against bullying that we will put a stop to it. But the fact is that it has always existed and always will. And a lesson, pep rally, or raising awareness is not going to end it. So what do we do? How do we protect our kids from being bullied and prevent them from being bullies themselves? Even at the young age of three, my daughter has already had experiences where she has been excluded from a group and has been physically bullied. On the flip side, I have frequently had to put her in timeout for pushing her little sister over or snatching toys and we are working (both of us) on using a nice tone of voice. Teasing, pushing, shoving, dominating a smaller or younger child... it just all starts so young! So, what do we as parents/care givers do? Here are some practical examples of how lessons on being kind play out in our household:
I believe we need to teach our kids at a very early age to stand up for the bullied, the rejected, and the ostracized. We need to realize that to simply see an injustice take place and say "that's too bad," is not enough - that to be an onlooker is to be as guilty as an offender. We need to own up to our responsibility to raise our children to "love others as themselves" and work hard to see that happens. Because the world needs more Timothy mouses.