This story about a 16 year old girl who developed an app so lonely kids can find someone to eat lunch with warms the cockles of my heart (no, I don’t know what a heart cockle is but I know we have them because where else would the expression come from?).
My daughter being bullied at school is one of my greatest fears. I was bullied – mildly, compared to many – and it shaped so much of my life. I was so socially inept and anxious by high school that I wound up dropping out in grade 11. Which, OK, actually turned out to be a really good decision. But STILL. Not the point.
So, I like this.
Natalie Hampton, 16, from California, developed the app Sit With Us to help students let others know that others are welcome to join them for lunch without fear of rejection. Hampton was a target of bullies herself.
She reportedly told Today, “Apart from the horrific attacks, the worst thing was being treated as an outcast and having to eat lunch alone every day. I believe that being isolated branded me as a target. All I wanted was to have just one person who had my back.”
According to Indy100, students can log on to Sit With Us to arrange lunch with friends, and find or host an “open lunch,” where anyone is free to eat with them.
This young girl deserves a medal.
But you know what? Adults need this same app. And a lot of us (well, YOU) need to relearn this lesson of inclusiveness.
We’re always telling our kids to be inclusive and kind – well, those of us who are nice people are – but I often witness the opposite behaviour from grown ups in social situations.
I was at an event last week and standing by myself while a group of nearby women talked amongst themselves and ignored me. I tried talking to them a bit, and they replied, but then turned back to each other. So, that was awkward. (For me. Not the them.)
“Oh, yeah,” my husband said after we left. “I saw that. They were actually gossiping about someone too.”
I see this happening all the time. The worst, by the way, were the mom groups I tried to hang out with when my daughter was brand new. They’d put this big invitation out to join them in the park or whatever, then I’d show up and those who already knew each other would hang out with each other totally ignore me. It was like being the uncool kid all over again.
And it’s not just me, lest you think, “Geez. It sounds like maybe all this is just because nobody likes you, Elizabeth. Maybe you’re just annoying.” I’ve heard the same type of story from lots of other new moms. And I have LOTS OF FRIENDS, OK!?
I always look around at whatever gathering I’m at and make sure to include anyone who looks lonely. I’ll go drag you over to my group and include you, because I know what it’s like to feel left out. You’ll never be left alone on my watch… er unless you want to be. I’m not (very) creepy.
Both kids and adults need to feel included.
If you’re trying to teach your kids to be nice, make sure you’re setting a good example.
Do you do the same? When you’re at a social gathering, do you look around you and see if anyone is feeling left out, then make an effort to include them? You should.
Start now. The next time you see a lonely person in a social or professional situation, engage them. Invite them to join you. You’ll make a big difference in their day. I swear.
There’s another side to this argument and it’s hilarious. Read this essay by Simon Rich, one of my favourite comedy writers.