21. THE GOD IN ALL THINGS
My country, like many others, has a major problem with bullying. It is listed as one of the top 5 areas of concern amongst schoolchildren and also for adults who experience it particularly in the work place. It is closely linked to our high youth suicide rate.
Unfortunately this problem is easily ignored, unless we are personally confronted with its effects and, as a consequence, feel moved to become part of the solution.
Spiritual education enables our vision to expand, to include the well-being of our neighbours, and this awareness and sensitivity produces a broader sphere of concern. I learned about this principle early on in my life, thanks to Anne.
When I was eight I was placed mid-term into a different class. In this class was one girl who stood out from the others. Her name was Anne, which also happened to be the name of our Commonwealth’s beautiful young princess. This distinction inspired some of the children to give her the title ‘Princess’ Anne.
I quickly learned that in my new class one of the many ways we were expected to pay homage to our new princess was by giving her first option on our little school lunches.
Some of the girls, feeling a sense of inferiority owing to Anne’s popularity and perceiving their own positions in the classroom social hierarchy to be under threat, responded by creating among the remaining girls, roles that were even more inferior than their own.
One of these girls who took the same route home as myself, used to wait after school every day until I left the school gate and then walk a few steps behind me, slamming her school bag hard into my legs at each step and chanting ‘Fat Pat, Fat Pat’ until we were within sight of my home.
This story remains sharply etched in my memory because of what I learned from what happened next. In my little eight year old mind I conceived the idea of establishing my own place in the class hierarchy. I looked around and my eyes fell on Christy.
In her I recognized the perfect target. In contrast to my own childhood puppy fat, which my mother kindly attributed to being 'big-boned and well built', Christy was clearly much more deserving of the label ‘fat’. Even more conveniently, she walked home along the same route as mine.
So it was that after school that day I waited nervously at the school gate for Christy to appear and, when she did, I fell into place behind her and began slamming my bag into her legs with each step.
But alas, as I trudged along behind her, swinging my bag back and forth, there was no resultant surge of pleasure.
Christy uttered not one word but kept walking soundlessly, mechanically, with no outward reaction at all. And instead of the hoped-for sense of superiority, I felt only foolish and hollow.
Without any words being exchanged between us, I recognized the feeling of shock, disbelief and unpreparedness that lay behind her silence; like that of an animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
I knew what that soundless panic felt like. I saw myself mirrored in her and felt disgusted by the reflection that I saw. Looking at Christy, I had seen my own self in her.
I became immediately, totally disempowered, stripped of any desire to harm her. In fact, I became my own victim because I was sickened by what I had discovered in my own soul.
Although Christy quite possibly retains no recollection of me, I am forever grateful for the powerful and enduring lesson I learned through her that day.
I saw the importance of having personal integrity in the choices I would make from then onwards and in the efforts I would make to overcome future hardships in my life. And I learned the truth of a verse I would later discover in Hindu scriptures:
"When a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that lives, he hurts not himself by hurting others’.
Also reinforced in Bahai Scriptures:
"Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds..." - Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh CXXVII