“What could you do if someone tried to bully you?”
The question was posed to Greendale elementary students on Monday afternoon, by country singer and bullying prevention advocate Ryan Laird.
And these kids knew the answer.
“Just walk away,” said one girl.
“Tell a teacher,” a boy offered.
“Tell them to stop,” another girl said.
Yes, Laird said. All of those.
He shared the story of being bullied in Grade 7 in Ontario, by a girl in his school. New to the area and painfully shy, Laird had plucked up the courage to enter a talent show.
“I sang the very first song I’d ever written, and I sang it to my whole school. I thought it went pretty well,” he told the kids. “But there was this girl, Ashley.”
Ashley, he explained, was a bully. She broke the budding entertainer’s heart, telling him his music was no good and he’d never be famous. This treatment went on for an entire school year. But eventually, Laird said, he began to talk about it. He told someone, and the bullying stopped. Now, he’s living his dream as a recording artist, writing and performing his original music in Nashville, TN.
And one of his songs just happens to be about Ashley, and how the bullying experience shaped his life. He sang it to the kids, as part of his cross Canada school tour.
“Hey look at me now, the quiet kid grew up somehow,” he sang. “A little bit different’s not so bad, kinda works with the plans I didn’t know I had.”
Had he known the ways to help stop bullying, back then, Laird said he probably could have stopped it sooner. But he’s chosen to take the experience and make the best of it, one of the reason’s he’s travelled across the country with his show, called Bigger Than That. Last week, he even had a chance to perform during the intermission of a Vancouver Giants game at the Pacific Coliseum.
“I’m hoping to motivate as many kids as I can to never stop chasing their dreams and never let a bully stand in their way of success and happiness in life,” he said. “I’m thrilled to have visited thousands of youth across our great nation over the past couple years. After hearing their stories about bullying experiences and the many dreams that they aspire to in their lives, I was inspired to use my voice as an artist to provide message driven music concerts which empower youth to dream big and conquer negative influences.”
At Greendale, he invited students to the stage to talk about their dreams, and encouraged them to work hard toward those dreams. As he sang and played the guitar, his young audience sang along and offered up their own stories and questions about bullying.
This week, he’ll be performing in Quesnel, Kamloops and 100 Mile House. Laird is a two-time Canadian Country Music Awards nominee, who once gained Taylor Swift’s attention by placing a giant billboard in Nashville asking her to produce her album.
For more information, visit www.biggerthanthat.org.