Thursday, November 7, 2013

Finding Your Voice Is So Important

One of the movies I truly love is The King's Speech. The universal humanity of the film -- the quest to find your own voice, whatever the odds or obstacles -- is so compelling, and the vulnerability and determination that Colin Firth injects into his character is perfect.

All the major performances in the film are wonderfully done, and I highly recommend watching it.  That is especially true if you have a stammerer or a shy, non-verbal child in your midst.  Or if you know someone who was that child at some point in the past.

They get it right, down to the inaccurate assumptions and outright nastiness of the people around Bertie who have no patience for his verbal pauses.

The above YouTube shows a similar awakening for a student in England, whose teacher had seen the film and tried the method of playing music via headphone while his student was trying to speak.  The results are nothing short of miraculous for the student, and the end is guaranteed to make you sniffle a little bit.  Well worth watching this.

What struck me was something the teacher was saying before the boy goes down to speak in the auditorium, that he had ended up at that particular school, the one where he found the help he needed to find his voice, because he had been so severely bullied in his prior school.  That out of a bad situation was this miracle made.

Serendipity often has a way of finding us when we need it to the most, doesn't it?

Bullying is such a tough issue.  It is insidious, in so many ways and in so many forms and places, but stopping it or at least mitigating it somewhat can be difficult.

When you think about the rest of your life once you got out of school, you know that mean people are just going to be a part of what you deal with every single day.  Hopefully a small part, if you are lucky, but still...who isn't in a workplace without at least some meanness or spite?  Even in the best of circumstances, that happens all the time, and one of the survival skills that allow us to thrive is learning to let meanness roll right off our backs, to brush nastiness off and keep moving forward.

For some folks, that can be really difficult, though, and I would imagine for the fellow in the YouTube above that would have been excruciatingly hard since he couldn't really speak up for himself.  His stammer would have trapped him in that way, and whomever bullied him would have known that before ever beginning, wouldn't they?

I don't have good answers on how we can do better with any of this, other than to keep trying and step in where we see someone needs our help or support.  But I often think that kids know exactly what they are doing with a lot of this -- and also know that it is wrong while they are doing it.

For a child who is having difficulty, though?  Finding a way to be able to speak up for yourself is a miracle, and can often be the catalyst for change -- where the bullying doesn't just stop, but an internal metamorphosis occurs where the child gains confidence and happiness with their own skin. 

Some people never do:  I saw that a lot with victims of abuse, who were so beaten down that their self worth was tied into the person who had continually beaten them down, and it always broke my heart because it was not always something that could be fixed.  You have to want to heal your broken parts, and some people...well, let's just say that it was frustrating when that didn't happen.

But when it did?  It was like all the sunlight in the world suddenly streaming in to a place so dark.  It was brilliant.  And so it must have been for the boy in the above YouTube -- finding understanding from his peers and that spark inside himself he feared might be lost to him before.  You have to love that.

Finding your own voice is so very important to so many things that are better for all of us...and it is not too late.

Speaking of finding a voice, if you haven't seen this anti-bullying video, you really should.  It was done by a private Catholic school in Australia after there were some bullying issues in the diocese.  I think it may well be one of the best videos on the subject that I have ever seen.  I showed it to several of my classes earlier in the year, and found it very effective in sparking discussion on reaching out not shoving away.  Watch and share it:  this is a message we all ought to take to heart:

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