I generally try to keep my posts focused on books and reading, but this week I find myself compelled to write about another topic that deserves equal attention. What is this topic, you may ask? It is the persistent problem of bullying.

Bullying is a problem that almost each of us has faced at one point or another in the course of our lives. It’s a problem that transcends geographic location, age, race, socioeconomic status, and sex. It’s a problem that attacks people for their appearance; their identity; their career; for who and what they are.

The problem of bullying has existed since humanity began. Yet despite all of humanity’s advances over the years, it continues to be as great of a challenge to overcome as ever before.

Many view bullying as a childhood issue, where kids just need to learn how to toughen up. ‘Kids will be kids, after all.’  But the April 7th Sunday Secrets on the popular PostSecret.com website featured two secrets addressing adult bullying, supporting the argument that bullying isn’t just a childhood problem.

One postcard secret depicted a middle-aged woman looking forlorn, her head bent and her eyes closed, with her hands held up to her face. The caption next to this image read “Bullying doesn’t stop after middle school. I know because it is happening to me.”

The other postcard secret held two significant sentences, summarized in seven simple words. “I forgive my bully. You can too.”

Just last weekend, I saw a post on the ‘Stop Bullying Champaign-Urbana’ Facebook page that cautioned parents about current cyber-bullying amongst local middle school students. The post warned parents about messages being sent by bullies encouraging victims to commit suicide, which is never a matter to be taken lightly. It disheartens me to think about the harsh things being said to those victims, and I can only hope that it was nothing more than a rumor.

But in reaction to this and in light of my own past experiences with bullying, I feel especially motivated to urge all of you to watch the documentary Bully directed by Lee Hirsch. In the documentary, Hirsch follows five kids and their families as they experience the ramifications of bullying.

The film Bully is an eye-opener to the truly unkind words and behaviors that children and teens are capable of, and the lasting affects those words and actions can have on their victims.

Viewers are exposed to the harsh realities of bullying, witnessing the pain and suffering endured by these children. The most heartrending portion of the film follows the two grieving families of bullied children who are struggling to cope after losing those children to suicide.

If we as a community increase our awareness of bullying, and work to fight against it, we can try to prevent the bullying documented by Hirsch from perpetually continuing in our own hometown. It’s not something we can end overnight, but it’s time to put a spotlight on the issue and stop it before it’s too late to help our local youth.

I’m taking a stand against bullying, and I hope you will to. Join me by pledging at www.thebullyproject.com. Together, we can work to put an end to bullying.