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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rejection and Jumping Off a Cliff

In the Spring of 2014, my understanding about relationships and tolerance were transformed. My son and I attended a screening of the unreleased feature-length documentary REJECT. The movie explains how our brains processes social rejection in much the same way that it processes physical pain. For someone who has been cast out or ostracized, there is a truth to the statement "it hurts". The film helps us to understand that belonging, understanding that we matter, and that we are loved by the ones significant to us is the number one influence on our lives as humans. Number one.

REJECT also helps us learn that acceptance is not just a social construct vital to our survival, but essential to our potential as individuals as well.

Student driven, student voice. Brianna introducing the evening. 
Since my initial viewing I have become an advocate of the film and helped spread the word about the various screenings around the country through my twitter and Facebook pages. I wanted other people to have a chance at changing their prism and how they looked at our kids, our relationships, and our world. Find out more about the film REJECT
Closing out a terrific night.
When I got wind that REJECT Director Ruth Thomas-Ruh and her team had launched a kickstater campaign to help pay for the final costs associated with releasing their film, I was all in. I contributed a small amount that allowed me a digital license to show a web version of the film to a small audience during October's Bullying Prevention Month. Those modest plans got our wheels turning, so to speak. So we jumped off the cliff of not-ever-doing-something-like-this-before and started working towards bringing a community-wide screening of REJECT to the greater South Bend area.

Our goal was to extend the reach of the film, while spreading the word about Erase Meanness' mission.  We secured a venue, found and pid an insurer, energized our volunteers, and started reaching out to everyone we could think of to put people in the seats. We promoted through every avenue we cold think of, including good ol' fashion kiosk flyers and snail-mail and we were thrilled with the turnout. We assembled an expert panel for post-movie discussion and closed out the night with a terrific conversation on how a community can work together to create communities of kindness and inclusion.

Our local Fox affiliate did a great job covering the event as well. Community Members Watch REJECT

I closed out the evening with a call to action.

"We cannot be worried about the perceptions of bullying incident statistics reported in our schools, we must be worried about our kids.

We cannot isolate the bully or address bullying superficially by filling out a form or checking a box in an effort to demonstrate compliance. We must not wait for the toxic words of rejection and meanness to be digested and then treat the symptoms of their poisoning. Communities of kindness are formed by communities of parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders that work to extend hands of cooperation instead of pointing fingers. We cannot wait and we must not stand-by. We shall start with kindness, always kindness."

We must make sure that every child gets a chance to shine like the sun. Erase. Replace. Be kind." 

A great night.

Eric Johnson
A few of our "Eraser" student activists
(some of this post was cross-posted at Erase Meanness' blog)


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