I’m fond of old cemeteries. They’re quiet.
Newer graves show off flowers or flags. There is someone still alive who cared about and remembers the person beneath the soil. A wife, a son, a grandchild, or a friend.
The older graves are barren. Dusty. Sometimes full of weeds. They get that way quickly. It takes just a few decades before everyone who once knew and loved that person is dead themselves. A few dozen years more and nobody will even remember their name.
Three graves together, nearly a century old: a child “Taken Too Soon“, a “Beloved Wife And Mother” dead the same year, and a year later the father “Resting With God and His Angels“. Was there an accident? A suicide borne from grief?
I doubt anyone alive knows more about them than me, a stranger walking by, reading the etched stone. Everything else they were is gone.
Meanwhile, the Living…
Karen Klein, a elderly bus monitor earning about $15,000 a year, was captured on video being harassed and bullied by the children on her school bus. The kids mocked her for her weight, her looks, her clothes, and even the deaths of her family members. Her son committed suicide ten years prior, and those comments reduced her to tears.
You can watch the video if you wish, but I don’t recommend it. I’ve been online a long time, and I’ve seen some amazingly bizarre, disgusting, horrible, vile, brutal, weird, and crazy things. With just words and insults, this video ranks as one of the worst of them.
People are raising money to give this poor woman a vacation. Their $5,000 goal was obliterated, and they are at $550,000 and climbing. It’s a nice gesture, and I’m happy for her, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about what happened.
Kids on a Bus
This woman still endured a horrible situation that nobody addressed until a video of it went viral. She had been bullied by these kids before, and nobody took action. These kids thought it was acceptable to threaten and mock this woman to tears. None of that has changed.
It’s easy to point fingers at the parents, or at the kids, or at the administrators, or… anybody. But the real anger is because stories like this make us doubt ourselves. How could one human just be so hurtful to another?
That’s why the donation is so high – what happened to Karen taps into our collective guilt over how poorly we can behave as human beings. We’re trying to apologize on behalf of humanity for every time we were cruel as children, mean to someone who didn’t deserve it, or stood by and didn’t defend someone who needed it.
We’re not apologizing to Karen, we’re apologizing to ourselves. To the universe. “I know we’re a mean little species sometimes, but we don’t want to be, and we can do much better than that… right?”
We know this part of us. We know it, and we hate it.
We can’t make it go away. We can do things like financing Karen’s retirement, and supporting anti-bullying organizations like the It Gets Better Project and Stand for the Silent, but the biggest thing we can do is always be on guard against that cold piece of ourselves. We’re too often focused on the race, the grind, the competition, and the acquisition. None of those things endure, but they often fuel the part of us the kids on the bus put on display.
I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.
You’re not going to matter forever. In a hundred years someone may lovingly place flowers upon your grave. They might do it many times, but eventually they will stop coming and the flowers will give way to weeds.
The only time in which you matter is right now. Right where you are. To the people around you.
How you treat them, and the impact you have on their lives in this brief sliver of time together, is your real legacy.
Have a care with others. Never back down from defending someone who needs it.
Use these moments well. They’re all you really have.