Sometimes life sucks. Things happen to us: we make bad decisions, we trust the wrong people, we hurt each other, we can be victimized by injustice, we can be taken advantage of, and we can wrestle with things that are far beyond our control. In the end, we are the only people who have the power to decide who we become: what we will do with the hurt, the pain, the experience. Our lives are powerful and every decision we make has the potential to have resounding effects. But sometimes it can be hard to see that.Although they may look like simple structures to the outside world, within many schools there is a world that is a law unto itself. In the hallways, locker rooms, playgrounds and classrooms of our schools, many important people find themselves being victimized. They are insulted, pushed around, and brutalized and the saddest part is that many of the people who see it happen never say a word. Yet, according to recent reports, when bystanders actually step in, bullying is often stopped. Where is their voice? What is it like to be locked inside of something you cannot escape from? Every day you wake up and leave your home, knowing that all that is waiting for you when you arrive at school is brutality, humiliation and rejection. It’s easy to see why fear, insecurity and depression are familiar friends to many teenagers.School violence is the dark blot on this generation and those of us who have gone ahead of them need to help lead the way out.Gem has been touring with LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) since 2008. Born and raised in New Zealand, Gem is a creative, attractive and vibrant member of our road teams. Like everyone in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), Gem has a story to tell. When you hear it for the first time, you cannot believe it. She seems so far removed from it for it to be true. But it is real, and it needs to be told.“From age 5 until I was 16, I was probably the number one bullied kid in my school. It wasn’t just about physical abuse like bruises, black eyes, pushes and shoves. I was told I was stupid, I was ugly, I was fat, no one liked me and that I would never amount to anything. For years of constant torment, I couldn’t even go a week without a new bruise. I would even lock myself in the art room at lunch because I was scared to walk down the corridors by myself.And then there was the day like no other. I walked into my classroom and sat down. A group of girls came and sat down behind me, giggling and whispering. I just put my head down and tried to ignore it, but then it happened. Before I could stop them, they took my ponytail and simply cut it off – completely. All I remember is feeling numb, like nothing they could do – no names they could call me and no amount of bruises – could have hurt me more than this. I was so scared I didn’t breathe, I didn’t cry. I just sat there, feeling this unfamiliar wind on the back of my neck. I was almost scared to move, afraid I might fall to pieces.It has been ten years since that day, and if I tried to tell you that those words and actions don’t hurt anymore, I would be lying to you. They are still very painful memories. I wish that I would have reached out to someone, that someone would have told me it would get better and that I was worth more than what my experience had led me to believe. It wasn’t until I was out of school that I realized that there is more to life, and there is more for me. I am irreplaceable and I am valuable. Every morning I wake up and choose to believe that I am worth more – even when I may not feel like it. I have come to realize something: it wasn’t my fault that I was bullied. It’s not anyone’s fault that they are bullied. People bully others to try to make themselves feel bigger for a moment, and that’s not the victim’s fault. But together we can change that. Whether we realize it or even care about it, our words have power. They have the power to tear down, to destroy and to steal hope. But they also have the power to bring others up, to make them feel significant, and to give them hope. There is hope for you; you are not alone.It’s up to us to decide who we will be. It’s up to us to change it.”Most days of the tour, Gem stands up on a stage and shares this story. Each time she shares it, she is offering a little bit of her heart to people, and with that offering comes a tangible portion of hope. Inside each of us is the need to know that we are valuable, that we count, and that we belong. Why is it so easy to step back and watch people be brutalized, tormented, and rejected and yet so difficult to find the voices of those who are able to rise above that? We believe that we can hold out hope to a generation who needs it. Through our stories, our presentation and through sheer willingness to reach them where they are at, our road teams are some of the unsung heroes of our organization. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s High School Assembly program, Think Day, is able to stay on the road because people like you help to support them, help to get them booked into schools, have hosted them in your homes, and have sat in a high school gym and experienced the message and the very essence of what we are. Through our presentations, workshops, online email response, and one on one contact with thousands of students, we are helping to turn the tide on hopelessness.There are many Gems in the world, and together, we can reach them and offer a way out of hurt and loneliness, because they are worth it. Please help us to help them.“Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”~ Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.