As we get closer to Thanksgiving my mind shifts to the young girl from Ohio who inspired me to take a closer look at those who might be sitting next to me at the dinner table. Her full name is Emilie Grace Olsen. I’d never met her in person but for the past two years I’ve been thinking about Emilie a lot. Sadly, her life story seems like a microcosm of our somewhat split personality here in America. An American couple graciously open their hearts and home to a young Chinese girl abroad, giving her a new life in America. That’s the beautiful side. Unfortunately, when young Emilie went to school (in Fairfield Township, Ohio) she experienced the ugly side of our American society.
Nearly two years ago, on a cold mid-December day, Emilie Grace Olsen ended her life with a gunshot to her head. She was only 13 years old. The bullying by some of her classmates and peers was too overwhelming for Emilie. Made to feel unwanted in your school is a terrible feeling for any kid. I think that Emilie’s story stays on my mind more so than other bullying-to-suicide cases because of her young age and because of the method she used. Statistically, we usually don’t hear about girls using guns to end their life. When I first got wind of Emilie’s story, near Christmas 2014, I was in New York working on the manuscript for my upcoming novel and was stopped cold by the news. I remember just sitting in the chair, shaking my head in disbelief. And then I began to feel so useless and helpless, as if I could’ve somehow made some type of difference in Emilie’s tormented life.
Emilie’s story will always be on my mind. The way I look at Thanksgiving and Christmas now is different. Unbeknownst to us sometimes, those who partake in bullying others (kids and adults) throughout the year maybe one of those who sits at our Thanksgiving table. They may receive expensive and thoughtful Christmas gifts from us. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that bullying goes for beyond our school system. As we get older, we tend to give things a new name…but bullying is bullying, regardless of age.
For Emilie’s sake, let’s talk to one another and have a real conversation about bullying (in all of its different forms.) On this Thanksgiving and all days forward, for Emilie’s sake and for America’s sake, I hope and wish that we will start treating one another a little better than before. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Everyone. – Randolph Randy Camp