I have worked in the television news business for many years. As a journalist, I have the responsibility of sharing good stories and really bad stories with you, the viewer. Over the years, I have learned to emotionally block out most tragic events. I find I can go for months without being affected by all the death and mayhem that we have to report. It is part of my job, which I assume is similar to what first responders have to deal with in their jobs.
But a few weeks ago, I found myself drawn to a story that broke my heart. A young middle school student in Riverside County had been bullied at school and was punched, then sucker punched, ultimately falling to the ground where he was punched again. He hit his head and went into a coma. His name was Diego. He was 13 years old.
I followed Diego’s story for days and prayed for his recovery. I would daydream of what we could do as a community to show up and support him once he was conscious and alert. I knew he would get better. I would see Diego’s face in my mind some days as I drove home from work. I prayed for his family and friends. But Diego never came out of his coma. He is no longer on this earth. I heard the news while in the makeup room at KTLA and I literally gasped out loud. We all did. It is a tragic story that never should have happened.
Imagine the lives of the young boys who will now forever live with the fact that they killed a classmate, a boy they once apparently considered their friend.
These students are children. They are preteens finding their way through life. How can we help them? I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. But I do know that life is about actions, behaviors, thoughts, and choices. We all have the ability to show by example what it means to be a kind person and not a bully. Your children, your nephews and nieces, your friend’s children – they are watching us all to see how we behave. They need good role models. We owe them that.
We can’t bring Diego back, but I believe we can begin to help others by leading lives we can be proud of. Lives that don’t include bullying, judgments, or criticism when someone is different. Children hear everything we say in public, at sporting events, and in the privacy of our own homes. I encourage us all to be better with what we say about others. If your thoughts are mean, ugly or judgmental, don’t say them. It is that easy. Find something positive to say or think instead.
By countering the bad in this life with kindness and non-judgmental actions, we can begin to save the lives of young people like Diego. I’m on board. Are you?