Kirk Smalley, of Perkins, recently found himself in the middle of a room full of people from Oklahoma's faith community — people whose gifts of oratory are exceptional because most of them give powerful sermons and presentations on a weekly, if not daily basis.
However, Perkins, a self-described construction worker, captured his audience's attention with his first few words and held it all the way to his poignant presentation's conclusion.
Smalley, founder of Stand for the Silent (www.standforthesilent.org), shared his family's story at the recent Oklahoma Conference of Church's annual dinner at the Petroleum Club in downtown Oklahoma City. The Rev. William Tabbernee, the organization's executive director, said Smalley's topic of the evening — bullying — is one of the social justice problems the conference plans to combat.
Smalley said to the group that he and his wife, Laura, have been working to prevent bullying, particularly school bullying, since their son Ty committed suicide two years ago after he was bullied. He held up pictures of children whom he said committed suicide and he gave details about their lives and the bullying that drove them to take their own lives.
Smalley, at times weeping, said he has presented his anti-bullying message to more than 600,000 young people and adults since May 2010.
He urged the religious leaders to help combat bullying by talking to other people about the negative and tragic consequences that can result from such behavior.
“I'm not asking you to do it for me. I'm not asking you to do it for my boy — my boy is not being picked on anymore,” Smalley said.
“I'm asking you to do it for your kids. Do it for your grandkids.”
He said adults bear responsibility for changing the culture of suicide because children often learn this behavior from them.
“We see parents bullying each other. It's everywhere — all around us — and we've got to start calling each on it,” Smalley said.
He said spreading the anti-bullying message has become his mission and it should be everyone's.
“Please take this back to your schools, your churches, your families,” he said.
“Take this to your communities and don't wait until it happens. Let's do something about it before it happens.”
The Oklahoma Conference of Churches includes: the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Progressive Oklahoma Baptist State Convention, Reformed Church in America, United Methodist Church Oklahoma Conference, Religious Society of Friends and the United Church of Christ.
I'm not asking you to do it for me. I'm not asking you to do it for my boy — my boy is not being picked on anymore. I'm asking you to do it for your kids. Do it for your grandkids.”
Founder of Stand for the Silent. Smalley's son Ty committed suicide two years ago