There is an old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This saying was the typical response of verbal bullying that so many have endured. In reality that old adage simply says, physical force (sticks and stones) may hurt an individual, but words (names, insults) cannot. In reality, words do hurt, especially if they are coming from a place of intended harm. 

Sadly, many people use their tongues to damage others, thereby creating animosity, misunderstanding, and, sadly, hatred. This week, January 18-22, is “No Name-Calling Week.” Developed by the organization GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network), it emphasizes the idea of working together to eliminate any form of name-calling in school or in the workplace. It is a week celebrating and recognizing kindness while working to produce a learning or working environment free of name-calling, bullying, or bias. 

No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled The Misfits by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the “Gang of Five” (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. The No-Name Party, in the end, wins the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name-Calling Day” at school. Motivated by this simple, yet powerful idea, the No Name-Calling Week Coalition created by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing, consisting of over 40 national partner organizations, organized an actual No Name-Calling Week. (GLSEN.org) 

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Recognizing No Name-Calling Week is an ongoing effort on behalf of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance to create a welcomed environment for all in our town. No Name-Calling Week encourages schools and workplaces to address name-calling and bias-based bullying so that all feel safer and more affirmed. 

In an effort to fully understand the power of language, the Hawthorne Pride Alliance suggests the following activity.  Take a tube of toothpaste and squeeze out as much toothpaste as possible into a bowl or another type of receptacle. Once the toothpaste has been removed, take a spoon, or some other tool and try to put back ALL the toothpaste into its original tube. It is impossible.  This simple activity has a powerful message: once words are said (the toothpaste) they can never be taken back (trying to put the toothpaste back). The words have a lasting  impact either positively or negatively.  Let our words be positive. 

This week, which began with honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, let us all watch what we say to each other, let our words lift others up, and not tear others down for “words do hurt.”