‘It is our responsibility to make sure our children learn to treat each other with respect. The importance of educating our youngest members of society about how to be more compassionate and understanding is of immeasurable value to the nation and to the world. By taking the initiative to reinforce this message within our children, we reinforce it within ourselves. Everyone wins’.
Just over 12 months ago, a video appeared on the internet. Filmed using a cellphone, it shows four seventh-grade boys from New York bullying a bus monitor. Her name is Karen Klein and she is in her late sixties. The abuse she is subjected to is hateful and vile. Her ordeal lasts for more than 10 minutes.
Here at OM®, we thought about writing a blog about this last summer. In the end, we decided not to. The truth is that, when it came to it, we just couldn’t face it. So disturbing is the film clip that we couldn’t bear to watch it in full. We just tried again now. We didn’t last for much more than a minute.
Karen’s tormentors are merciless in their attack and nothing is off-limits. Not her weight. Not that she is crying. Not even the fact that her eldest son committed suicide a decade earlier.
‘You don’t have a family, because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you,’ is one boy’s contribution to the assault. Karen is prodded and poked. It is shameful, horrible stuff, behavior that cannot be comprehended, an incident beyond tolerance.
The reason that we’ve decided to write about this now is that this traumatic tale seems certain to have the happiest of endings. You see, Karen is putting her experiences to the best possible use. Connection, kindness and compassion are proving to be central to her efforts.
Last summer, having seen the film, Max Sidorov, a Russian-born nutritionist living in Toronto, decided to set up a fundraising appeal. He hoped to raise $5,000 to send Karen on vacation. No-one could ever have predicted the response . . .
Donations flooded in. To date, more than 30,000 people from 84 countries have sent Karen funds totaling a little over $700,000 dollars. ‘There are a lot of nice people out there, I’ve learnt that,’ she says. It is quite an understatement.
Four bullies, 30,000 benefactors, the scales are tipped in the favor of the good guys and then some. ‘I know how it feels [to be bullied] and no-one should ever have to go through that,’ says Max. ‘If everyone gave each other support and kindness, none of this would ever happen again’.
So far, so inspiring, but the best bit is still to come. You see, having retired from her position as bus monitor, Karen has decided to put the funds raised on her behalf to good use. She has used $100,000 to set up and seed the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation. The text at the top of this blog post is taken from the Foundation’s online mission statement. It is stirring stuff.
Other lines from the website that spoke to us include ‘Inspired by acts of love, we will change the world’, and ‘Your single act of kindness changed my life forever, now we will stop bullying in America’. Needless to say, such things are right up our street here at OM® and it’s a pleasure to be able to share this and to give Karen’s efforts our backing.
There’s little more for us to add, other than to commend Karen for turning a shameful situation around, to applaud Max for starting the snowball rolling and for praising all those contributors for helping it to grow. Teaching respect is our responsibility, and it’s one that we take very seriously indeed.