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A ray of hope in a dark world?

Television news and the internet are full of stories of people doing bad things.  Okay, one guy in particular, but it’s also an growing epidemic around the world.  It can be disheartening to tune in to CNN or even local news coverage.  Crime is the number one story whether you’re a rich politician or a nameless face that robbed a convenience store.

And social media has added to the anger and condemnation of not only the criminals, but those who would report it.  From “fake news” to #MeToo, everyone’s got an opinion and attacks those who don’t agree with it.  So it’s getting uglier every day.

Just in time, October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the U.S.  That’s not to say that Canada doesn’t have its anti-bullying weeks, events and websites (www.bullyingcanada.ca).  But it’s a month-long deal south of the border.

So it’s no surprise that the networks are once again running their annual #ChooseKindness campaign.  Disney, ABC and Freeform want to end bullying in schools.  They are asking viewers to send videos and photos and write testimonials about the importance of being kind.  The stars of these networks – including Nathan Fillion, Leighton Meester, and Sasha Pieterse – are also personally asking their fans to end negativity, celebrate our differences and be kind to one another.  Hence, no more bullying.

It’s a lovely sentiment.  But is it working?

According to a 2013 status report on “Bullying in U.S. Schools,” most anti-bullying campaigns don’t work.  Kids, and now, even the teachers, are still being targeted.  According to the students, kids don’t really care until something tragic happens.

But there are some campaigns that do work.  These ones teach empathy and give real tools for kids to learn kindness and for by-standers to step up.

For example, Sesame Street is putting a lot of effort into new characters that require a little more explanation.  They might have two mommies or two daddies.  Or they’re autistic or in a wheelchair.  Those Muppets are being very specific about how these people should be treated: with respect and care.  And most of their audience hasn’t even started school yet.

In the real world, a Utah middle school asked its students to write down specific examples of what they’ve done to be kind to others on strips of paper.  These kids then made a chain of these strips … a mile long.

For the adults in the room, there’s a website called the goodnewsnetwork.org that is full of stories of people doing positive things.  (Check it out if you need to restore your faith in humanity.)

So it seems like people want to do the right thing and the media wants to help.  Even if the president, himself, calls his colleagues names, attacks the press and mocks anyone who dares to cross him.

This tells me there’s hope.  Because as long as the networks are willing to spend millions on what, so far, has been an anti-bullying pipe-dream, I can have faith in the world.

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