By David Unruhe, Governor of the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific District
Remember the name Ronin Shimizu. That’s a statement, not a question.
Ronin was a 12-year-old boy, living in suburban Sacramento with his parents and younger brother. He had lots of interests, including Boy Scouts, crew/rowing and cheerleading. Two weeks before Christmas, Ronin chose to end his life. When I first heard this awful news, I was devastated. What can a young boy experience in life that is so awful, so traumatic, that he feels the only way out is to commit suicide? I soon learned that Ronin had been a victim of bullying for many years and had finally taken more than he could bear.
By all accounts, Ronin was a very happy kid. His creativity and uniqueness were apparent at a very young age. This uniqueness was what ultimately led to the bullying because to some people, uniqueness or specialness is threatening, and therefore scary.
A few years ago, I attended my high school reunion. I was talking to three kids I had started kindergarten with and ended up attending school with them for the next 13 years. We talked about a couple of the “unique” kids we had gone to school with, the ones who had been picked on for one reason or another. Those kids weren’t at the reunion — why would they be?
I was just another kid, not unique, but not a bully either. I never picked on those kids, but what I did was almost as bad. I did nothing. I didn’t stand up for these kids when they were picked on. I knew it wasn’t right, and I knew I should do something, but I didn’t. I was afraid. And for that I am ashamed.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I acquired the courage to stand up to bullies, and then I learned a very important thing: Bullies are usually cowards. As soon as you stand up to them, bullies tend to shrivel up and crawl away.
I am not naïve. I know that young children (boys usually, but girls, too) often tease and bully other kids on the playgrounds and in school. Young kids don’t usually have the courage and strength to stand up to bullies, and they suffer in silence. That’s when the adults need to intervene and put a stop to this behavior.
I want to quote from a letter Ronin’s parents wrote to the community:
“We always knew that he would make an impact on the world . . . please remember that education in regards to bullying prevention does not only need to occur in our schools but also in the home.”
This is my New Year’s wish for 2015: Always remember Ronin Shimizu, and always stand up to bullies, whenever and wherever you encounter them.
Ronin’s parents are right about Ronin having an impact on the world. He already has.