DR. WALLACE: There was a boy who attended our school who was considered to be a social outcast. He wore glasses, he was overweight, and he wasn't all that intelligent. He was rarely well-groomed, and he had a poor complexion. He had no friends, and I heard that his mother sent him to live with his grandparents when he was young. All the students knew him, and many couldn't resist making fun of him. He was called Goober, and he would even respond to that name. I must admit, I occasionally joined other classmates in mocking and making fun of him.
The first week of this new school year, some of our "hero athletes" cornered him in the hall and pulled down his pants. This brought much glee to the athletes, but I can't imagine the humiliation this boy felt.
We will never know. Over the weekend, his grandfather found his body in the garage. His grandson had placed a rope around his neck and hanged himself from a wooden beam.
This tragic incident has changed my life. I am devastated that I allowed myself to be a part of the group that destroyed this precious life. This boy was buried yesterday, and our school was adjourned so his fellow students could bid him goodbye. He had done in death what he did not accomplish in life — earned his classmates' respect. Many tears were seen at the service, and many heads were bowed, including mine. I'm sure his death has affected the entire student body. We were a somber group of teens. I personally feel both sick and responsible, and this tragedy has shaken me to my core.
All lives are most precious, and it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect and preserve them so they can bloom and make our world a better place.
Goober: I'm so, so sorry for causing you such horrible pain. Please know your life was not wasted. Because of you, I am now acutely aware of my many faults, and I've vowed to spend the rest of my life caring for and not hurting others. I know this is not what you would think or even believe when you were here, but I honestly miss you.
Dr. Wallace, please print my shameful letter, because I want the world to know I am so very sorry for what I did to a fellow human being, and I'm asking God and my fellow human beings for forgiveness. I would give anything to go back in time and be nice to this boy to give him hope and comfort when he was alive. — Anonymous, Toronto, Canada
ANONYMOUS: I am touched by your sincere response to a fellow student's death, despite the unacceptable behavior you engaged in. Too often, we, as humans, inflict emotional pain on others without thinking beyond the moment — expecting it to evaporate, fade away and become insignificant. Groupthink and peer pressure factor into these types of situations, because others are also doing it. The emotional pain inflicted upon a victim is much more damaging than the physical pain. Your actions were indeed extremely inappropriate, inhumane and destructive. You should be ashamed and shaken by what has happened.
I do appreciate your honesty, introspection and pledge to be a better human being because of this unfortunate tragedy. All of us want to be liked. We all enjoy praise. It is sad to hear this young man was made fun of and likely never heard a word of praise at school — and possibly not at home either.
Sometimes we put down others because it makes us feel better about ourselves, but that is a truly weak and terrible thing to do to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
It took a terrible human tragedy to teach you this lesson. Going forward, may you indeed live a more inspired and compassionate life for the rest of your days in honor of your departed classmate. Never forget what you did and how you are feeling right now.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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