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Overcoming bullying with generosity

Josh was just an ordinary kid, and he had an ordinary problem - he was being bullied at highschool. Wanting to let people know he existed, he was a good person, and to react positively to the negative attacks, he wondered what he could do. So he held open a door. Every day. For months. That small act changed everything.

Perhaps because it's such a small thing we can all relate to it, or perhaps because people don't do these simple acts often enough, it had a profound impact. Certainly, I've been personally moved by how Josh transformed conflict into peace. So I took a few moments to reflect on why it's so touching.

First, it is so simple. Josh doesn't strike a committee, start a foundation, hire experts or make a big multi-stakeholder plan - he did something he could so alone and start today.

Second, Josh persisted tirelessly. Josh didn't hold the door just once, or for one week, or until he got tired of the taunting I'm sure the bullies heaped on him for being different - he held the door day in and day out, we don't know for how long. We do know that people learned to expect Josh to be there, he gained their trust and built relationships, and the impact was so big it changed the tenor of the whole school. People noticed. People responded. People were inspired. Josh clearly persevered for the longhaul.

Third, the act of holding the door was just the beginning. Just because it was a humble act didn't minimise its impact. The ripples expanded to people's emotions, attitudes, relationships with Josh, and probably the way they treated others. Perhaps it inspired other students to open doors for others, or let others get on the bus first, or see strangers in the halls as real people, or smile more often, since they appreciated Josh's smile. We'll never know everything that it sparked, but there definitely was an impact.

Fourth, it changed people. Josh's initial goal was to change the situation, and to be seen positively, versus the negative perception his tauntors held. But I imagine the self-confidence Josh got for following his convictions were even more transformative. In the video, he comes across as such a creative, resilient, humble person who made a difference beyond his wildest imagination. More than that, it changed others. Fellow students said Josh changed how they felt about themselves, and even the atmosphere of the school. It was so dramatic a change Josh was crowned homecoming king! What an unexpected transformation for simply holding a door!

Yes, there is a lot to this simple story that has captured our hearts. Probably the most compelling one is that doing something similar is within our own grasp.

Is there a negative situation in your own life you want to transform positively? Before trying confrontation, is there a small act of kindness you can try to turn the situation around? Even if it only changes you from feeling powerless to empowered, it will have an effect. You will be being the person you want to be, in a new, visible, tangible way.

Our actions cannot help but impact others. Beware that their first reaction may be negative. They may taunt, misunderstand, or take advantage of you. They may feel powerful or deserving because you are performing an act of kindness for them. Persevere. Be gracious anyway. Don't expect people to immediately understand, appreciate you, or change their perceptions overnight. But don't give up and prove them right. Continue being the person you want to be. Then, whether they become more loving and positive in return, you can at least be proud of how you reacted yourself.

Maybe one day you'll be writing about how you changed your family, school, team, or workplace by one small act of kindness. Remember to share it so we can rejoice with you!

Image credit: D Chitwood

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