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McKenzie Leaks

McKenzie Leaks is an eighth-grade student at Ridgeway Middle School. She was honored by Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich as an ambassador in the Do the Write Thing Challenge, a national anti-violence essay competition. 

Do the WriteThing essay: Hate is not a natural state

By Published: March 31, 2019 4:00 AM CT

Violence and hate are not our natural states of being, they are separate traits that are taught and learned over time. Left to their own devices two children of completely different backgrounds will get along just fine. Sadly they are the most well-taught and deeply understood lessons provided across the planet. Some parents purposefully teach their children to hate, that other children are inferior to them for various reasons such as color, religion, financial status and even where you live. The reasons we find to hate another person or a different group are many and we seem to create new ones on a regular basis which is a most unsettling idea when given proper thought.

Two groups over time can create a reason to dislike one another at a time when no other cause exists. Many times a perception is created that tells one group that the existence of another group threatens their well being or the ability to provide and gain income. Despite the fact that many religions around the world have similar lessons of compassion for the poor and sick among us amazingly many wars have been fought solely for the purpose of asserting one religion's dominance over another.

As a young person I am exposed to violence every day because it has taken up a disproportionate amount of our daily lives. It's constantly in the news we get, some of the music we hear makes reference to doing harm to each other, others talk about general rage against the way things are. We see it more and more in the movies and television we watch. Now instead of the terrible images of war that we used to see in the news we are treated to images more like the video games we play after school. The stress that the adults around us experience bleeds into our minds and in some cases their anger becomes our own.

A few summers back I had a terrible experience with violence. I was attacked by a man as I was riding my bike in the park. I kicked and screamed at him and when I fought back he ran away. But I was never the same after that and I still have trouble thinking about it even though I was able to get help and my parents supported me. But in many cases other kids don't get the help they need and worse don't have good support at home. In those cases where does the fear and anger of those experiences go? Does it turn outward in violence against others? In some cases it does and in many situations the child ends up doing more harm to themselves even to the point of suicide. I think the worst thing we can do is be ashamed of those experiences and keep them to ourselves. What if I am sitting at the lunch table with another person who has had a similar experience as my own. It is possible that we could find a way to help each other and learn different ways to get through it.

In order to change the behavior that breeds violence we must first seek to understand and put every effort toward being thoughtful and reasoned. The great majority of our worries and fears are unfounded and many will never come to pass. Just as the lessons of hate and violence are taught to us, in a way the lessons of love and understanding have to be poured into us to wash out and replace the things that make us weak. If a child is taught from a very young age, for example, how to play the piano or some other instrument and spends a lot more time interacting with other children their age and learning about another's interest. If we are taught constantly to come to the aid of someone who appears to be weaker than me instead of laughing at or making fun of them then that person will find encouragement and a place to belong. Everyone needs to belong somewhere, but many children go home to empty houses without enough to eat and each day become more frustrated and ashamed.

I believe that as children learning to volunteer should be taught to us in school from first grade through the 12th. If we excel in something we should be given the space and time to share our knowledge with others and take advantage of another's experience when and if they are stronger than me. If there are no dumb questions why do so many children feel ashamed to raise their hands? I have an aunt and an uncle that teach in our schools and my parents tell me about how different things were when they were in school. Our minds have plenty of space available and when that is filled with positive thoughts and experiences we tend to share them with others and that could not be a bad thing. If we can learn to hate we can be taught to share. We can be shown how another person's differences can make us a better and more educated person.

Finally the problems we face in our world at times seem overwhelming but I don't need to fix the world. I only need to check on the neighbor to the left and right of me and they will do the same for me. When the problem seems to be too big we must work to shrink it down to sizable bites.

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Do the Write Thing Essay Contest McKenzie Leaks Every Day In School Violence

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