Last year at our local high school, a young girl committed suicide after being bullied. We were still relatively new to the community, my kids did not know her, we didn’t know the family. But, of course, we felt the tragic ripple throughout the community. Of course, I talked with my kids — yet again — about choosing kindness, about inclusion, about self-worth, about the notion that they are loved and valued far beyond what one or two people might carelessly say. Bullying, suicide… it’s such a tragic and all-too-common refrain.
Three days ago, we were all in the car traveling from one holiday event to another when I heard Mary Claire exclaim from the third row, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” She was staring at her phone, overcome with emotion.
“What’s wrong, MC?” I asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, Mom,” she said. “Look! Look at this!”
And she handed me her phone.
On the screen was a picture of Mary Claire and her new camera (named Kenji… because my kids enjoy naming their favorite inanimate objects) followed by this post:
“Mary Claire Willis is another beautiful girl at PHS. And in the spirit of this Christmas season, she donated her hair to locks of love! Mary has many hidden talents that many of us don’t know about. She has written her own book that is completely amazing and creative. She also has an amazing voice, and an sing for anyone to make them happy. She also cares a lot for other people’s feelings, and puts theirs before her own! And most importantly, she stands up for anyone who is getting made fun of or picked on and refused to take no for an answer. But most of all, Mary is creative. She’s not afraid to dress how she pleases and be different. Thank you for brightening everyone’s day Mary Claire! You truly are an inspiration to all.”
I choked back tears reading this oh-so-accurate description of my girl. To have others see her gifts as we do… it was truly a state of overwhelm.
“What is this?” I asked. “Who posted this?”
“I don’t know,” Mary Claire said. “It’s an anonymous account. They post nice things about girls at PHS.”
I scrolled through the pictures and read inspirational, positive posts about 70+ different girls. The posts were all unique, passionate, beautiful. Then I read the “about” section of the @perrysburggirls account. It was begun in memory of the young girl who took her own life last year. The final sentence read:
“This is in honor of you, to remind everyone that they are beautiful and loved.”
It took my breath away.
So often, social media is a place for bullying, for trolls, for anonymous unkindness. These thoughtful Instagramers instead made it a soft, safe, uplifting space instead.
Light in response to the darkness.
Love in response to tragedy.
It’s just as easy to lift someone up as it is to push them down. These kids understand. They get it. And they’ve inspired me to do the same.
I’ve created a new Facebook community page called “Sunshine and Flowers.” Ridiculously cheesy? Of course. But that’s the name of the mix tape my best high school friend made me in 1988. We were famous (in our own minds) for our mix tapes and our greeting cards. We’d stand side by side at Cynthia’s Hallmark, handing each other the sappiest of the sappy.
“This one’s for you,” Andi would say, and I’d read it.
“This is for you,” I’d say, handing her another.
We’d read them aloud, dramatically.
We saved a lot of money that way.
But we both understood that beneath that layer of gooeyness, we meant what we said. She was there for me. I was there for her. We had each other’s backs. And it has remained that way for more than a quarter of a century.
So, here’s my challenge for each of you. Visit the Sunshine and Flowers Facebook page and give it a “like.”
Then post away.
Say something fabulous about someone. Be gooey. Be kind. Be sincere. Be all in. Then tag that person… whose day will be made. Guaranteed.
Spread the love. Be the change.
And if you’d prefer to do it anonymously, send me the info at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do it for you.
Come back again and again and again.
Of course, no one’s worth is dependent upon how we feel about them, but it sure is nice to be reminded of our awesomeness now and then.