Saturday, March 19, 2011
365 Project - Day 78 - "In Our Shoes (Alexa's Shoes)"
March 19, 2011 - "In Our Shoes (Alexa's Shoes)"
In Our Shoes is a project to raise awareness of the problem of bullying in our schools, communities, and online. All middle school and high school students who feel they have been bullied are invited to submit a pair of shoes to the project. These shoes may be decorated or written on in whatever manner you wish, and you may submit them along with a 4X6 card telling your story. No names are required, and information is kept anonymous. Your shoes will become part of a display that travels to area schools, churches, or other organizations to help people visualize the experiences of children and teens affected by bullying.
For more information please visit the In Our Shoes web site at www.inourshoes.us
In Our Shoes is an initiative of the youth of King Street United Church of Christ, Danbury CT and is a Signature Partner of the Connecticut Conference's Youth & Young Adult Ministries.
The shoes in this photograph were part of a display at the Brookfield Theater for the Arts during the run of their production of "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead", which deals with the subject of bullying.
While there were approximately two dozen pairs of shoes in the display... this pair stood out as unique. Why? Because unlike the other pairs of shoes on display, which were each created by students who had themselves experienced bullying and chose to share their story - the person behind the story of THIS pair of shoes was not able to tell it herself. As a result of being bullied, Alexa chose to end her own life... just three days before she would have started high school. Her family chose to share her story by decorating these shoes in her honor.
Seeing them brought tears to my eyes. I was bullied throughout all of middle-school, and most of high school. At first it was because I was overweight... so I starved myself until I was under 140lbs. Then it was because I was "too skinny"... "too effeminate"... "too faggy"... "too gay"... or because of the way I dressed... or the way my hair was... or because my voice is higher than most males... or because of who I was attracted to... or what girl or boy I was seen kissing or holding hands with... or what sort of things I liked/collected/drew/painted/listened to/read/looked at... or whatever.
Basic verbal "teasing" became having books knocked out of my hands... garbage put into my bag when I wasn't looking... hate-words being written on my belongings... phone call threats... confrontations in school stairways and corners... smacks... hits... punches... threats of serious injury and even death.
It got so bad... and so "dangerous"... that the crisis counselor at my high school suggested that I leave the school and enroll in the adult program, for my own safety... which (for that and a combination of other reasons as well) I eventually did, just to get away.
There wasn't a day I didn't think about suicide... or trying to at least self-destruct! Then I met two people who completely changed my life... my (then) girlfriend Janice - and my wife Holly. Two people I loved dearly... who showed me that life was worth living.
Everything changed. Now I'm almost 20 years out of high school and have two children of my own, one of whom is currently in junior high. I will do ANYTHING to ensure that my own kids do not have to go through the same hell I had to go through!
But in many ways I had it so much easier than kids like Alexa. I had the blessing of having certain people in my life who helped me to see that it truly does get better. Alexa... and too many others just like her... didn't have such blessings. While I know that there were people in Alexa's life who truly loved her... for some reason it wasn't enough to help her feel as if she wasn't alone... it wasn't enough to convince her that it would get better.
And it DOES get better!
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