Today Joe Bell was laid to rest in La Grande, Oregon. He was hit by a truck in Colorado while walking across America in memory of his son Jadin. The headline in the Oregonian read: ‘Death ends dad’s quest to tell nation about gay son’s suicide’.
Last February Joe’s son, Jadin, at age 15 took his own life after suffering relentless bullying by classmates because he was gay. At his son’s funeral, Joe said: “I don’t want Jadin’s death to be in vain. I want it to stand for something. I think we need to look to people for who they are and not who we think they should be.”
To honor his son and for the sake of so many other young people who feel judged and isolated, Joe began his walk. On two artificial knees, with good shoes and a backpack, Joe walked 1000 miles to schools, churches and service clubs to tell Jadin’s story. He spoke about an epidemic of bullying, about the need to educate ourselves for signs of being bullied or of being a bully. The antidote he said, was education and a renewed commitment to do our part, to intervene when needed and to cultivate a culture of tolerance and kindness.
Today Joe Bell was laid to rest. Yesterday, the news reported that a 12-year-old girl in Florida, Rebecca Sedwick, had committed suicide after suffering cyber bullying.
Clearly, Joe’s work remains. What then can we do? We can educate ourselves. A good web site to learn about signs of bullying or of being a bully is at www.stopbullying.gov . For the sake of Jadin and Rebecca and countless other children and youth let’s get involved. Let’s each do our part to make our community a more tolerant and kind place to call home. In memory of Joe, Jadin and Rebecca, let us walk together.