The importance of being kind to people who are different than you

I’m just a 24-year-old girl from California who is working hard to live my dreams and make my difference in the world.

In order to do that, I’ve had to face challenges. Sometimes even simple things have been a challenge. But I never let that stop me. I have always continued to dream big and to fight hard to pursue those dreams.

When I was young, my dream was to be an actress. Sure people told me I’d never be able to do it, but I replied, “Just watch me!” Now they are watching me, but this time on the big screen. I filmed my first movie when I was 16-years-old, just finished my second film, but you might know me best as the spunky Becky Jackson on Fox’s hit TV show, Glee. This year marked the end of Glee, and I’m pretty sad to say goodbye to the amazing time I have had with my Glee “family,” but it just means that I have to work hard on finding my next dream role!

As a girl who has accomplished things that some people didn’t think were possible, I know how wrong people can be when they judge someone else just because they are different. We are all different. And that isn’t bad, it’s just, well, different!

Since Glee, I am recognized everywhere I go, and people are so nice to me — but it hasn’t always been that way. Since I have Down syndrome, some kids were mean to me and said mean things to me at school just because I was “DIFFERENT” than they were. At school, I was bullied by some boys, pushed down, and made to eat sand. In the hallway, a group of boys walked behind me calling me a “retard.” And, even since I have been an actress, I was bullied on Facebook by a group of very mean people who posted pictures of people with disabilities along with rude and hurtful comments. My mom told me that they were just jealous of me (which is what moms always say, right?), but it still hurt my feelings that people who didn’t even know me would be so mean!

Some kids think that bullying only means hitting or pushing around another kid, but sometimes mean or cruel words can hurt a person just as much as being punched or kicked. You can also be part of bullying by just doing nothing! If you see or hear another kid hurting someone, whether it’s with hitting or with words, standing by and doing nothing can be almost as bad. I know it is hard to stand up to bullies. You might not think it’s cool to tell a teacher, or to tell another kid at school to stop saying mean words or to stop pushing someone around, or you might even be afraid that the bully will start picking on you if you say anything. But if we all start standing up to the bullies, and if we all make a promise not to be mean or say mean things about other people, we can win against the bullies and show them that being good to one another is way cooler than being mean! We can be the generation to say, enough is enough!

You know, we really are ALL different in one way or another. We all need to stand up for each other because I want to live in a world where everyone can live, go to school, and go to work without having to be afraid — afraid of being judged, afraid of being bullied or cyber-bullied, afraid of new things, afraid of failure, afraid of dreaming.

Now that I am on a TV show, people come up to me all the time and say hello and want to be friends, but if I wasn’t on a show would you come up and say hi to me? Would you be afraid to be my friend because I look different than you do? Or would you say mean words behind my back because you don’t know me and don’t know that I have the same feelings and dreams that you do? Sometimes it is hard to be young, and we all want to live in a world where we treat each other with respect. Words can really hurt a person’s feelings, and not having friends can really hurt too.

So, if you see or hear someone being bullied, what should you do? Tell someone! Tell your teacher or an adult. If you are being bullied, please don’t feel all alone! Tell your parents or your teacher because they really can help. Sometimes you think that if you tell it will get worse, but it won’t…trust me, I’ve been there! And stand up for each other! Don’t just watch or listen to bullying. Do something!

Becky Jackson on Glee is sometimes sort of a bully, but Lauren Potter is not! So join me in the fight against all kinds of bullying so we can all grow up in a better world!

And remember: never stop working hard to live your dreams, and never ever stop reaching for the stars!

(Image viavia.)