Padre’s Corner: Do something

St. Brendan’s Chapel at Stadacona.
Photo: CFB Halifax

Padre’s Corner: Do something                       

By Padre Lt(N) Stephen Cogswell,
Chaplain, 12 Wing Shearwater

It’s said that people show what they really think and feel by what they do, rather than by what they say. To take it a step further, the greatest catalyst for change is generally not anything that’s spoken; it’s action. 

In other words, do something.

We have five children across a broad spectrum of ages. Surprisingly (and gratefully) schoolyard bullying isn’t something we’ve had much experience with as a family. That is until recently.

My youngest son is elementary-school aged, and one day he began to share the experience of having some difficulty with a classmate. My wife & I would patiently hear him out, empathize and try to encourage him, fully anticipating that it would soon blow over. It didn’t.

In fact in the several days that followed, both the frequency and severity of the bullying increased, spilling over to forms of online harassment. All of this despite my son’s clear & repeated requests to the other child that it cease.

It did not.

Before long, the homeroom teacher and school counselors were made aware of the situation and soon after, fully engaged. They spoke to individual students involved on both sides of the issue and even facilitated dialogue between the parties involved, all in the attempt to bring closure to the situation.

Still nothing.

By now, weeks had passed without any improvement. In fact, the relationship between my son and his classmate continued to deteriorate to the point that it affected every part of his day. My son, with the personality of a golden retriever, was wearing down emotionally before our very eyes. He was viscerally reacting to this failing situation, no doubt feeling as though any options for resolution were quickly evaporating.

Then, we had a talk. One of those good old-fashioned father-son talks. Maybe you could chalk it up to my rural New Brunswick woodshed upbringing, but I gave some old-school advice to my 5th grade boy that day. And my counsel for him was this; you are going to refuse to accept being treated this way, one day longer. So (in this last-ditch effort), I granted my boy full license to physically stand-up to the harassment he was now dealing with on a daily basis, with a pledge of indemnity if it went sour.

Guess what happened? He took action and did something. And he was never bullied again. It stopped that very day. And to our surprise, there were other students who came forward, emboldened by my son’s stand, who shared similar experiences with the same child. It stopped for them too.

Now, I am advocating physical violence as the first line of defense in situations of conflict or harassment? Certainly not. But what I am suggesting is that if words are powerful, then actions can be even more so.

There’s an ancient story from the Christian scriptures that highlights this very thing. A story is told of a man who was attacked and left for dead by the side of the road. Three different travelers pass by and take note of him. Two carry on without any engagement with the injured man. In fact, the first two were those in positions of religious & cultural significance who should have freely offered help. But, according to the story, it was the third passerby who actually engaged the wounded man, took action, and tended to his needs. He refused to ride by and simply wish someone well from a safe distance. Instead, he took action.

He did something. And in the process, changed someone’s life.

Is there a situation you’ve been sitting on your hands about? A relationship that’s a bit undone? A need that’s still apparent that no one has met? A change you’ve been talking about making? A workplace that needs an emotional lift? A way that you can contribute positively to the people around you?

You could keep talking about it. Or, you could get on with it and do something. Who knows what positive change your actions might bring?