A sea of pink and a wave of kindness took over our community this week, as we recognized Pink Shirt Day and spread the important message of kindness and anti-bullying. The topics were front-and-centre for our Junior, Middle and Senior School students in classroom discussions, at assemblies and in chapel.

On Wednesday (Pink Shirt Day), chapel featured wonderful speeches from Mr. Ritch Primrose and Grade 12 student Nika Klenz. Mr. Primrose spoke about two well-known figures who were subjected to bullying and mean behaviour – Jackie Robinson and Ellen DeGeneres – and how they took the high road in their own lives to make a difference. Nika spoke about the importance of kindness and the positive impact small acts can have on our world.

Below are excerpts from each of their speeches:

by Ritch Primrose, Assistant Director of Student Life and Leadership

Jackie Robinson is a hero to a lot of people, including me. He was the first African American Major League Baseball player. He broke the colour barrier. This was back in the 1940s when racial equality was nowhere near what it is today.

When Jackie was preparing to enter the major leagues, he knew that he would be booed and jeered and possibly taunted. Jackie knew when he entered the league that all eyes were on him; that the haters wanted to see him respond to this with anger, with frustration, with even violence or hatred. But he was playing the long game; he had a bigger goal. He didn't just want to be the first African American baseball player, he wanted to pave the way for black athletes to play professional sports and he knew to do that he had to rise above.

He knew to achieve his goal of racial equality in sports he couldn't react to this type of taunting. He chose to not react, to not fight back. He had the courage to do that.

When Ellen DeGeneres first came out, she was subjected to bullying and negative comments, and her TV show was actually cancelled. After this happened, she understandably was sucked into a depression and she struggled. When she finally got to a place where she was better, she made the decision that she wanted to be a champion against bullying. She made that her cause and she identified a two-pronged approach to fight bullying.

The first approach was kindness. She fought bullying by advocating being kind to each other; the golden rule: treating others how you want to be treated. The second approach was a bit more difficult: forgiveness. She ended up forgiving some of the people who said hurtful things about her, the people who cancelled her show. When she's discussed this later in life while advocating for anti-bullying, she talks about how that forgiveness piece was more for her than for the people she was forgiving.

As a school, we need to stand together and stand strong against bullying and mean behaviour. SMUS is a safe, caring, inclusive school community, but we know that bullying and mean behaviour can happen at all schools. But strong and positive communities can stand up and combat bullying.

We can learn from Jackie Robinson and Ellen DeGeneres. Sometimes the best response to bullying and mean behaviour is either non-reaction, or better yet, taking the high roads: forgiveness and kindness.

by Nika Klenz, Grade 12

The value of kindness is something that I feel really strongly about because I believe that it has the power to change the world.

The idea of kindness is super easy; easy to understand, easy to do. Or maybe it isn’t. I do think it is easy to understand. I really don’t think that there are many people in the world writing brilliant articles or giving inspiring speeches about why we shouldn’t be kind. But then why don’t we actually do it? If we think it is a no-brainer to be kind, then why are we not kind to everyone all the time? That is a very important question and much more difficult to answer. 

Why are we unkind? Sometimes we can be selfish. Sometimes we can feel insecure and feel like we need to compete with others to show our worth. You see, at the heart of it, we are all the same because we want the same things: we want to be accepted and we want people to be nice to us. As teenagers especially, we all share a certain level of insecurity and doubt, no matter where we are at school socially, or in life. It is easy to compare ourselves to others and see where we fall short: “She has nicer hair than me. He has nicer skin. She has a nicer smile than me. He has the most amazing eyelashes!” This can bring out the worst in us. Actions inspired by insecurity don’t always work out so well, and they create a negative cycle of gossip, rumours and putting others down. 

I believe that every person has the ability to change the world around them by being kind. Kindness is also contagious; being kind to others inspires them to follow suit.

This is amazing because if we all consciously choose kindness, we have the power to create a ripple effect throughout our families, our communities, our cities, our country and even our whole world. Kindness is a choice that we get to make every day, and everything we do has the possibility to impact someone else's life, whether that be positively or negatively. If we hold so much power over others in the way that we treat them and what we say to them, then we need to make sure we use this power for good. 

It is a huge responsibility when you realize how much your actions and words can influence the life of another person. Just think of a paradigm shift, if kindness were at the core of all our decision making, our world would be an entirely different place. 

So what does this look like for each and every person? For you and for me?

One thing that I have come to realize is that there is potential for kindness in every encounter that we have. I have become more observant of others and how they are feeling. I always try to catch myself before judging others and replace that feeling with compassion and understanding. And I have also been making an effort to go out of my way to make others feel good. This is a really simple shift, and there is a selfish element to it because it actually makes me feel really good, too.

It is important to note that kindness requires no skill or talent. Really, it is just a decision. You always have a choice. You simply just need to choose to be kind.