There is so much more to bullying than just the words and actions used against another person. Bullying can affect someone’s entire perspective.
This is exactly what happened to someone very close to me.
In 2009, I was in high school. I had friends and goals. So did Hunter Layland. His dreams were different than mine, but they still deserved a chance at being realized.
But that never happened.
Hunter was 15 years old. He was on the football team and had the biggest, kindest heart I have ever known. And he was bullied.
As a child, he had been run over by a car, and he had hearing problems and scars on his face as a result. But he never let that stop him from joining the football team or becoming a part of my life.
We were becoming friends. Not best friends, and maybe not even great friends, but there was potential for us to become better friends.
He was my homecoming date that year. It wasn’t a date, and we weren’t going to become a couple, but we were going together and we were going to look great.
Weeks before the dance, everything changed. One day at lunch, he was sitting with his teammates joking, laughing and just being guys until words that could never be taken back were spoken.
“If I had a face like yours, I’d shoot myself,” one of his teammates said.
At 6 a.m. the next day, Hunter took a gun and ended his life. All the pain he went through day to day —the insults, the bullying — became too much for him.
Because of someone else’s careless words, Hunter is gone forever.
One of the worst parts of his suicide was that he was still bullied at school. People used his death as part of a joke.
I think about him all the time. I think about how maybe I could have done something to change what happened.
Do not be a bystander when someone is being bullied. Take the time to tell someone to stop being cruel. Let the bullied person know that there is somebody who cares.
We should all reach out and find the words to fight back for someone who can’t fight alone.