A suicide hitting close to home

The following response to the GLBT bullying will appear in the February edition of Como Park Lutheran Church’s Evangelist newsletter.

I was truly disturbed when I read the headline.  “Another Bullied Gay Teen in Minnesota Commits Suicide.”  This hits close to home—in fact, Lance Lundsten was from Alexandria—less than 20 miles from my wife Taryn’s hometown.

What struck me the most about the headline was the word “another.”  There is something matter-of-fact about this—it’s happened before, it’s happened too often.

There is still some doubt that he committed suicide—Lundsten’s father insists he had coronary edema.  All of the medical examinations have yet to be concluded.  But the one thing we do know about Lundsten was that he was picked on.  According to friends, as an openly gay teenager, he was a big target for bullies.

Whether or not the bullying caused him to commit suicide doesn’t matter—what matters is that the bullying needs to stop.  Morgan Hauer, a friend from Lundsten’s school, Jefferson High School, has created a Facebook Group called “Jefferson Anti-Bully Coalition.”

One post states:

“So everyone, i may have started this group, but it really means nothing unless we take action. words, speeches and petitions can get us far, but the only real way to stand up to bullying is to stop bullying other people, stand up for those being bullied and let authoritative figures know whats going on. without you, this whole idea is pointless and a very beloved schoolmate will have died in vain.
Don’t let that happen, we owe at least that much to Lance and everyone else who is, was, or will ever be bullied.
Thank you, Group Founder, Morgan Hauer.”

The last week in January was officially “No Name-Calling Week.”  Across the nation, schools are creating dialogue about putting an end to name calling.  Barnes and Noble bookstores is on board—they had tons of books and materials to raise the awareness.  Books like “Don’t Laugh at Me”, “Speak up and Get Along!” are meant to teach kids the importance of respecting each other’s differences, but also to show the effects of being bullied AND being the bully.

Shouldn’t we make “no name-calling” an every week campaign?  Think about the harmful effects our negative use of language has on our kids.  Positive reinforcement, passing on a joke, not focusing on each other’s differences—these are the tools we need to develop and demonstrate to our youth.

In the midst of political turmoil and very strong opinions pitting one side against another, you see that even as we grow up, our bullying isn’t the same as stealing a little kids lunch money—it’s worse, we bully through blaming “those [insert opposing politician or party], we impose values on entire countries or groups of people that are inaccurate or biased, we hate those we are ignorant of and are lead to these views through fear.  When others—people, countries, groups, are in trouble, we turn our back and don’t stand up to the “grown-up” bullying that permeates through our society.

Stop.  When you know you’re talking to some one who pushes your buttons, breathe and think before you speak.  If we want the behavior to stop with our kids, we have to make sure we curtail our own teasing, arguing, and blaming.  National no name-calling isn’t just for our kids, it has to start with us.

Mission and neighborhood outreach are essential to Como Park Lutheran Church.  We do a great job of helping our neighbors.  There’s more to do—there are people in our everyday lives who need us to stand up and help them.  Start by modeling the behavior you’d like to see.  As Hauer says, it won’t mean anything if we don’t take action.  Be nice, be kind, stand up to those who aren’t.

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