Osaka YMCA
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Pink Shirt Day: I’m calling you out, OYIS!

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Picture of Thomas Bell

Thomas Bell

Mr. Tom has been working in the mental health field for fifteen years both in schools and in the community. He is a father of two and is happily married to his also counselor wife, Ms. Amy Pothong. He enjoys reading and drinking coffee when his children let him.

It might just be very simple. Be kind. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do small acts of kindness and practice empathy. Really practice empathy and not just give it lip service. Take a second to put yourself in other’s shoes. Be the bigger person and hold your tongue. Wear a pink shirt, but then also do the work.

Pink Shirt Day: I’m calling you out, OYIS!

You! Yes, you. Let’s take this down to the parking lot. I’ve got a bone to pick with you, OYIS. Because… you deserve a strong metaphorical hug! We did it. We’re doing it. We’re alive and well and things aren’t perfect, but man oh man, it’s happening. OYIS is a safe and strong community. Keep up the good work. Now let me say a few words about Pink Shirt Day and what I would like to see us do about it.

Somewhere in Canada at some point a guy was made fun of for wearing pink. His friends and classmates and school rallied around him to show solidarity and it grew into a yearly international event to support diversity and prevent bullying. Let’s talk about what we can do here and now, not in the land of ‘ehs’ and Degrassi, but here at OYIS in Osaka, Japan.

There’s a simple rule used when dealing with children; tell them what to do, not what not to do. Makes sense, right? “Soft hands, Timmy.” “Walking feet, Suzanne.” So what if we applied that rule to bullying? I think we’ve all reached a saturation point with hearing about bullying and how to stop it and what to do if you see it. So what if we flipped the script and turned it into something positive and strength-based?

It might just be very simple. Be kind. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do small acts of kindness and practice empathy. Really practice empathy and not just give it lip service. Take a second to put yourself in others’ shoes. Be the bigger person and hold your tongue. Wear a pink shirt, but then also do the work.

There’s a book we read to students in the early childhood center called Have You Filled a Bucket Today?’ The premise is that we walk around with invisible buckets and we fill our own buckets by filling other people’s buckets. Having a full bucket feels good. You fill buckets by performing acts of kindness. If we’re mean and dip from other’s buckets, we also dip from our own bucket. You might think this a bit too simplified for older students or adults, but what if it was the perfect, and simplest, way to reach our goal?

Having said all that, good people standing by and doing nothing is still a problem. Three OYIS students, Michael, Kirari and Eunwoo, did an experiment recently on the bystander effect, in which there is a diffusion of responsibility when people see bad things happening to others. Someone else will do something about it. The point here is that intervening in bullying has to be something that is intentional because it’s not about the goodness of the person, but rather the hidden social forces that shape our behavior.

So my challenge to you is not to go out there and stop bullying. Not to sit around waiting for the perfect moment to speak up and be someone’s savior, but to be proactive and intentionally do kind things. Make a commitment with yourself that you will do or say something nice to someone today. Afterall, you might not be there to rescue them if they’re bullied, but if they have a full bucket they’re much more likely to be resilient and let those bucket dippers go on by. We’ll never live in a world devoid of bucket dippers, but maybe we can counterbalance them by making sure those around us, and ourselves, are bulwarked by having full buckets. Who knows, maybe if we fill up the buckets of bucket dippers without knowing it, it just might be a long term solution.

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