The Falafel Kindness Project
The very first two sentences I wrote for It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel were the dedication. “To all the kids who don’t belong, for whatever reason. This one’s for you.”
We all know that school, especially middle school, can be a tough, or even miserable experience. I remember not fitting in for many reasons, but I also remember how much I appreciated friends, teachers, librarians, and all the people who, perhaps without realizing it, showed kindness towards me when I really needed it. This is how The Falafel Kindness Project was born. We hear a lot these days about standing up to bullies but I think that is a terrible idea! I would never recommend standing up to a bully unless you are built like Shaquille O’Neal. But we all know that kids who are built like Shaquille O’Neal are not the ones being bullied.
Let’s face it– everyone feels like an outsider at some point. You don’t have to be an immigrant named Zomorod, whose father is unemployed and whose mother does not speak English, to feel like you don’t belong. It takes the most trivial matter and suddenly, boom, you’re in Tease Town. Are you tall, short, fat, skinny, or not good at sports? Does your mom pack a lunch that looks like mud on rice? Is your hair too curly, too straight, too thick, too thin, or too anything? Do kids call you gay? Do you wear glasses? Are you from an unpopular country or state? (“Which are the unpopular states?” you ask. Depending on where you live, it can be anywhere, except Hawaii, of course.) The list is endless and pretty much includes everyone, except for approximately three kids at each school.
So for the rest of us, here’s the plan. Let’s create a kind, safe environment that diffuses bullying. Let’s make sure no one eats alone, unless they want to. Let’s make sure new kids have someone to hang out with that dreaded first week of school. Let’s banish the word “retarded” when used as an insult. If you see a kid being teased, for whatever reason, befriend that kid! It’s no fun teasing a kid who comes with a whole posse of friends who care. Be that friend who cares! Become a member of Team Falafel! (Or you can pick a cooler name, although I do think being named after a deep-fried bean ball is kinda cool, in a subversive way.)