Contest winner writes about toll of intolerance
To our readers: As part of this year’s Yom HaShoah observance, marking the international day of remembrance of the Holocaust, Temple Beth Shalom sponsored a high school writing contest around the theme “Never Again.”
Contestants were asked to address instances of genocide ranging from the Nazi extermination of Jews in World War II to ethnic genocide in places such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan.
The winning entry, a poem by University High School freshman Katie Rolli, was read at Yom HaShoah ceremonies Sunday night and is reprinted here.
Here we are it’s the same old thing again
Going back to where we said we’d never go again
Living the lies and pretending it’s OK
When we deeply hurt people with the things that we say
Judging too quickly without a second glance
Assuming their life’s story before giving them a chance
Stereotypes and cliques can come naturally to us
But thinking long term, just look what it does
Some kids decide that they’ve had enough
They give up on life because it’s too tough
What if there’d been a reliable someone?
What if they had friends that were rooting for them?
They begin to hate life and go downhill instead
Crying every night in the dark on their bed
Isn’t there anyone out there to save?
Or is it not popular for people to be brave?
If one single person had just stepped out
If they had left behind popularity and doubt
Then maybe, just maybe they would’ve taken the time
To say hello to an outsider, to cross a line
However there are those of us with many friends
People who fit in with the present trends
We’d rather stay in our comfort zone
Than be thought weird and be disowned
Too fearful are we for our own skin
So we won’t even try to save a life and win
What has happened to our complacent generation?
When in all reality we’re a desperate nation
Somehow though we’ve been held back
Friendliness to the freaks is something we lack
And since smiling at nerds is something we never did
One more is lost to the sound of the coffin lid
Again and again I wonder just how
No one can ever seem to seize the now
After all the lives it has cost
You’d think we’d learn from everything we’ve lost
When you look at someone and just keep moving on
Automatically forgetting the pro’s and only seeing the con
You begin to limit what life has in store
We have only ourselves to blame for all the closed doors
If we wouldn’t judge before
There’d be a lot less people ignored
It has become the most terrible tragedy
When insulting others is an entertaining strategy
All these people just need someone on whom they can depend
Why can’t we give a little of our time to just be their friend?
If every high school kid
Made smiling something they regularly did
Then I know for a fact
Many teens wouldn’t give up or go back
Suicide levels would be at an all time low
Dynamic friendships would most certainly grow
School shootings would only be a myth
Racial discrimination would no longer be such a rift
Think of everything we could achieve
It’s unimaginable to believe
Maybe if I could walk a mile in their shoes
Honestly, what do I really have to lose?
If I could just love them the way they are
Then perhaps a dear friendship wouldn’t be far
Especially if you feel you can’t make a difference at all
Think of how it’d be if you just prevented their fall
Even if the task seems impossible to do
Just remember that “Never Again” can be possible for you.