Today marks the start of national Anti-Bullying Week. Some of you will be wearing odd-socks today – a symbolic gesture that highlights that each of us are different, are unique, and that the fact that we are all different is to be celebrated.
There is a specific theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week, that of Reach Out. As we have heard in the reading just now, the impact that reaching out to somebody in need and offering them help can have, is enormous. As is the effect that simply asking for help can have. Now, we are lucky; we live and work in a community where bullying and unkindness are not tolerated, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen here – it does. In fact, I bet you can all think of an instance where you have seen unkind behaviour or bullying. How many times have you stepped in to stop it? That’s hard; I know it is. How many of you have checked in with the victim afterwards to see if they are ok? Or checked in with the person doing the bullying to see if they’re OK, as often, painful behaviour comes from a painful place?
Even though this is Anti-Bullying Week, reaching out is not limited to bullies or victims of bullying; it is important to reach out to anyone who you think might need it. Last night, I WhatsApp’ed one of my mates. It was the seventh message I have sent to him over the last three weeks, without a reply from him. The message simply said simply, “Hey mate, just a message to say I’m thinking of you. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.” This time, he did reply, and it turns out that he is having a miserable time and that receiving a WhatsApp message last night gave him a platform to talk about his challenges. I am not saying this to talk about how great I am, I am telling you this story to provide a real-life example of how a simple message from a friend, the simple action of reaching out, can make a difference.
Take a moment to think about the last time you reached out and supported someone. How did that make them feel? How did it make you feel? Or take a moment to think about the last time you reached out for help from a friend or teacher, even if it was with a piece of work you were struggling with, or how to master a new skill you had just learnt at games. How did that go? Did you feel better for it? Those conversations when you say to somebody, can you help me, almost always go well.
I know there is a lot asked of you as young people, but I am reaching out to all of you now to say, please, this week, take a moment to reach out to someone: a friend, a family member, a teacher, someone in your year group who is being bullied or someone who you know has been bullying someone else. Help make our community an even better, even more supportive place than it already is.