Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor from upstate New York who has been a household name thanks to the sheer amount of people donating to her vacation fund after witnessing a YouTube video by her middle school tormentors, is retiring after three years on the job.
On the surface, the heart-breaking video shows an elderly woman trying to keep her cool as preteen boys make sick, brutal comments about her weight and age like, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you,” and how one boy said, “If I stabbed you in the stomach, my knife would f***** go through like butter, because it’s all f***** lard.”
On the video going viral, she said, “It’s putting people into action, making them talk to their children, making them teach them what they should not do.” Whether intentional or not, these kids have grabbed the attention of the social media community.
Klein won’t be leaving her job without knowing the kindness of the social media community, who felt, after going through such terrible bullying by these cold-hearted pupils, that they needed to pour their hearts out and help a woman in need.
The result? The push to raise money for Karen Klein for her well-deserved vacation on Indiegogo.com surpassed its goal of $5,000 140 times over. More than 32,000 people donated $703,833 towards Klein’s vacation.
Online generosity has not been limited to victims of bullying. Earlier this month, one of Aaron Collins’ dying wishes was to “leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25%. I mean $500 on a pizza). Sure enough, his brother Seth has been visiting pizza places in his native Kentucky and giving waitresses $500 as part of Aaron’s act of charity. Word spread on social media about Aaron’s Wish, and so far, Aaron’s $500 tip has garnered more than $47,000 in donations. While not as big as the donations for Karen Klein, Aaron’s Wish has helped three waitresses so far.
Why does the Internet flock to sites like Indiegogo and other causes to give their two cents? It goes beyond the fact that Klein is a sympathetic character in a unfortunate, viral melodrama. It’s the fact that the Internet has made it easier to help those in need and that good deeds are often contagious. When middle school kids are talking about “murdering” people like Klein, who work hard to keep the peace each day on the school buses, you can expect a large amount of attention and outpouring.
When bullies pick on the vulnerable under the watchful eye of iPhones and smartphone cameras, it is the vulnerable — and the Internet community — who wins in the end.