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I have a new hero in life.

Her name is Jennifer Livingston.

Jennifer and I have a lot in common. We both like chocolate, show tunes and softball. She’s a TV journalist, and at one point during college I wanted to be one, too. And we’ve both been bullied for being overweight.

Jennifer, an Emmy Award-winning reporter, recently received this email from a viewer:

It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Even though I’m reminded of it everyday, I’m still sometimes shocked by how mean people can be. I’ve been in Jennifer’s shoes. I’ve been made fun of, laughed at, teased because of my weight. Normally I just shrug it off or go home and cry. But Jennifer — a mother of three young daughters — didn’t just sit back and take it. She showed true courage by responding to that viewer — on air. Watch her response here:

Beauty.

Grace.

Wisdom.

I’m proud of Jennifer. These words needed to be said. And the positive response and support has been astounding. Millions of YouTube hits, an invitation to The Ellen Show, and thousands of comments supporting Jennifer and her message.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks. The negative comments still roll in, even after Jennifer so gracefully stood up for victims of bullying everywhere. And it’s heartbreaking.

One Gawker commenter writes:

This is a hijacking of the whole bullying uproar. Being fat is unlike being gay, ugly, or having a different skin color. It’s something you change in 1 month. So sack up and do it. Also, the email didn’t ridicule her for being fat, it just brought to her attention that her presence on TV lends to accepting fat as normal. It’s not normal, it’s a problem and it needs to be addressed more than bullying.

Really? Being overweight is something you can change in one month? The lack of compassion and understanding here is unbelievable. To this commenter, I say: If only it took just 30 days to become a kind person… there might be hope for you.

Jennifer appeared on the Today show yesterday to share her story and insights. She said, “I think that’s been the downside of the Internet. People can just put out what they want with anonymity and never have any responsibility for what they’re saying … It’s so easy to be cruel when we should try to focus on being kind.

Amen, sister.

Like I said, people haven’t always been kind to me about my appearance. I’ve heard harsh words — even from my own family. It hurts. That’s why this next piece of news put a huge smile on my face. Jennifer’s brother, Ron, is “extremely proud” of his sister. He said, “My sister Jennifer… brings an exceptional dedication to her job, her family, and her community, and has been a role model of mine for many, many years.”

That kind of support can change a girl’s life.

Oh, and did I mention that her brother is Ron Livingston, of Office Space fame?

Gosh, I love that!

Jennifer, you may never read this… but I want you to know that your words really inspired me. To hear that — coming from a successful journalist and a loving wife and mother —  means so much. I’m counting calories. I’m going on evening walks. I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle. But you reminded me that “I am much more than a number on a scale.” I’m defined by my character, by the way I treat others, and by the simple fact that I am a precious child of God. And by all these definitions, Jennifer, you are beautiful.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14

~Ruth

P.S. If you agree, show Jennifer your support! She’s on Twitter: @news8jennifer.