Friday there's going to be a funeral at the Azzara Funeral Home in South Beach, Staten Island, and a Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Ann's in Dongan Hills for a 15-year old, who died after a bus hit her Dec. 27. No one knows, for sure, but she was carrying a suicide note when a witness apparently saw her jump in front of the bus.
I didn't know Amanda Cummings, and I won't be there, although I will take a moment the end of this workweek to pause, silently, to send a wish to her and hers.
But I can't not think about her story today. Her family says it was not the bus that killed her, but bullying at school that led her to take her own life stepping into the street. And that is not something to be avoided, despite all the busy, important world events that swirl about us.
It's another one of those stories I wish didn't exist and that I wasn't compelled to write about. We have lots of other news today. There's that Iowa G.O.P caucuses thing, I could write something witty about the dissolution of the old Know-Nothing party's progeny, the new Republican Party. And Leon Panetta is about to present a plan to trim $450 billion from the defense budget...over the next 10 years. Dare I suggest that $45 billion a year is a pathetic amount to take back from the military-industrial-congressional complex, so aptly named by none other than the late President Dwight Eisenhower? And tension with Iran, and North Korea proceeds apace, with missiles fired and Kim Jung-Un firmly ensconced-for the moment at least. Plus, dozens of other events of regional and global import.
But all those world leaders, those movers-and-shakers, those history-makers went to high school, too, like poor Amanda Cummings. That's where history starts. Were they bullied, or the bullying?
Were you? Each and every one of us knows in our hearts into which camp we fell, or fall into still, if you happen to be reading this and are still in high school. World conflicts start with bullying in school. Or bullying at home, in childhood. Childhood, where it all begins, as William Wordsworth, the American poet wrote in 1802:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
The child is father of the man, indeed. What we learn, and what happens to us, in childhood shapes us as adults and those patterns and thoughts are rarely, if ever, dislodged once firmly burned into our minds.
Poor Ms. Cummings, driven by the taunts of her schoolmates and who-knows-what-other forces, for a moment Dec. 27th, felt that burn and it led her to, to step in the way of an oncoming bus. According to reports, cruel classmates, who are being investigated now, even wrote taunts on her Facebook page while she suffered in the hospital after the accident.
The news about her is scant: She has a sweet smile in her picture and is pretty; she wrote, they say, loved animals, and was gentle. She was a beautiful poet, a beautiful artist, her sister, Dawn, told the Staten Island Advance.
She loved Katy Perry songs, too, apparently. Katy Perry has said that she, too, was bullied in school, because she developed early and was cruelly teased about it. In fact, the singer dedicated her single Firework to anti-bullying efforts.
In a world filled with hardship and death, the passing of one Dongan Hills teen is just a small ripple in the river of our universal history together. But she mattered to those she loved, and she should matter to us all. She stands for something. The cause-and-effect of small cruelties.
These may not lead to world wars, to conflagrations that consume 50 million souls, as happened in WWll, for example. But from such small cruelties are built a larger, cruel world that we each live in--unless we make a daily effort in each small thing, each small interchange with each other to do the right thing, the kind thing.
For me, that will include pausing for a moment on 10 a.m. this Friday, to think about Amanda Cummings and her loved ones and to wish them all a measure of peace.