I was working on another post for Writing the Good Write, when this news came in from USA Today:
7-year-old boy’s suicide shocks Detroit community
The seven year old, who has not been named by the press, was bullied in school, an unsafe place that he most likely tried to avoid. When he couldn’t avoid it, he went knowing he would be humiliated, hurt, or furious by the time he got back.
But even his neighborhood wasn’t safe for this first or second grader. After school and on weekends, he was bullied. Being the only boy in a houseful of eight women was most likely the fodder of many unkind comments at the boy’s expense. It was for my brother and he only had four sisters.
His ‘safe’ world had shrunk from the big world of school, to the much smaller neighborhood where he lived. Now his world was reduced only to home, most likely the only place he’d been happy in a long time.
We don’t know his family dynamics, or his relationships with his parents, but I’m going on the assumption that he was welcome and loved, given security and offered help. I don’t believe this child was ignored or unloved. His home was probably his only haven in a storm of abuse from the outside world.
I’m not presuming to guess at the unthinkable reasons this youngster had for hanging himself, but it seems reasonable to me that his parents separating, thereby making his one last safe place no longer stable and secure, was the extra burden his small shoulders couldn’t carry. It’s a tragedy.
In July, look for the release of my book for young readers about bullying in elementary school: Riding the Rainbow. Use that book to start conversations with your children about bullying, and offer it to your local school or public library. Until then, reach out to the children you know, no matter how young they are, and talk with them about bullies and bullying, and the need to tell someone so that they can get help.
Together we will make bullying unacceptable, but until then we can provide support to the bullied. The more people address local schools about the issue, the better. The more libraries that have books like Riding the Rainbow to start dialogues, the more children we can reach, who will always start their own dialogues.
My heart aches for the parents, family, and friends of this child. His death has forever altered the paths of their lives. Each will carry scars into their own futures, and make choices differently than ever before.
This was one small boy in a fantastically huge and largely unaware world, his life and death easily ignored. But remember the words of the Scottish poet, John Donne:
No man is an island, entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory was.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.