Hi this is Michael Josephson with Something to Think About.

Olivia Gardner was a sixth grader in Northern California when she suffered an epileptic seizure in front of her classmates. Immediately, the name-calling began. The hallway insults and ridicule – “freak,” “retard,” “weirdo” – escalated into cyber-bullying as a few nasty students set up an “Olivia Haters” website. One student dragged her backpack through the mud, and another whispered “Die Olivia” in her ear.  The taunting was so bold that her tormentors distributed and wore “I Hate Olivia” bracelets.

Neither her parents nor school officials were able to shield Olivia from this sadistic abuse. Even changing schools didn’t help. The bullying followed her through two other schools until her parents decided home school was the only option.

Like many teenagers subjected to extreme bullying, Olivia seriously contemplated suicide. Olivia was not a weak girl and she had the love and support of her family, but relentless cruelty inflicted by mean-spirited teenagers and condoned by a much larger group, simply wore her down, leaving her feeling helpless and hopeless.

Fortunately, this is only part one of Olivia’s story. Part two is more uplifting.

A story in a local newspaper about Olivia’s ordeal caught the attention of two sisters – Emily and Sarah Buder, then 15 and 17 years old. The sisters never met Olivia, but their sense of compassion and justice ignited a desire to offer her personal support so they asked friends to join them in writing nice letters to Olivia to lift her spirits. This genuine gesture of compassion set off a chain reaction of support, encouragement, and love that ended in thousands of letters to Olivia, a worldwide anti-bullying movement, and a successful book, Letters to Olivia, edited by Olivia and her new-found friends – the Buder sisters.

This is more than a story about the power of compassion; it’s a powerful case study about the nature of leadership and the power of young people to make a difference.

Don’t ever underestimate the difference you can make when you pursue your values with passion.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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