A recent tweet posted by the Dalia Lama truly resonated with me:
“What is important is not so much how long you live as whether you live a meaningful life. This doesn’t mean accumulating money and fame, but being of service to your fellow human beings. It means helping others if you can, but even if you can’t do that, at least not harming them.”
At first my focus leaned heavily toward living a meaningful life and being of service to and helping others. But as I lived with this tweet for about a week, the latter part “but even if you can’t do that, at least not harming them” took on a new, more powerful meaning.
That significance began taking shape after I read news accounts about 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis. I began to wonder if Ashawnty would still be alive if someone had a commitment to not doing harm to another human being.
It pains me to know that a 10-year-old was so tormented that she walked into a closet in her Colorado home and hanged herself. According to news reports, Ashawnty died of an apparent suicide after a video of her fighting with an alleged bully outside her elementary school was posted online. She died last Wednesday, after spending two weeks on life support.
The day before Ashawnty died, 13-year-old Rosalie Avila, hanged herself in her bedroom at her California home. Her parents said that she was the victim of relentless bullying at her middle school. News accounts say that she left behind a letter of apology, in which she described herself as “ugly” and “a loser.”
I can’t begin to imagine how Rosalie and Ashawnty’s parents are dealing with the grief of losing their daughters, of being with them in the hospital during their final hours, and of finding them clinging to life in their homes.
Yet in the midst of their agony, they are crying out to help prevent another child from being pushed to the brink by a bully. They say their daughters’ deaths should and could have been avoided, if the bullying had been dealt with.
Rosalie’s father’s message was clear: “Think about what you say before you say it because your words are going to hurt somebody…All these things that people say…all the horrible things…it has an effect.”
Ashawnty’s parents are calling it “bullycide” and want to raise awareness that children are taking their lives due to bullying.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and youth who report both being bullied and bullying others have the highest rates of negative mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and thinking about suicide.
What I know is two beautiful young girls are no longer with us because they apparently were seeking a way to escape the pain of a situation that seemed impossible for them to deal with.
I have a need to believe that Ashawnty and Rosalie left a meaningful mark on the world. I believe that during their short lives, they brought joy and happiness to those they touched.
But I can’t help but wonder, if they would still be with us had someone taken heed to the words of the Dalai Lama to at least do no harm to others?
I wonder how many of us can live out the message of Rosalie’s father — to think before we speak or act to ensure that our words and actions are helping others and not harming them?