Growing up, I didn’t have the most favorable circumstances. At 9 years old, I was a chubby bookworm who was new to town, living in a single -parent household. I was quiet and easily persuadable, constantly second-guessing myself and feeling misunderstood.

I yearned for friends and acceptance and kindness, things I had just realized weren’t a reality for me in my new school.

Picture me as the kind of child I just described. Add to Her some dorky clothes, wire-framed glasses, and a stack of books practically superglued to her hands. Oh, and she is one of the few black kids in her school. No, I didn’t say class. I said school.

Of course I was bullied.

You know what helped me to come into my own and become less discouraged? It was women who were older than me who took an interest in me and took time to get to know me. They saw potential and beauty in me though it was difficult for me to see it in myself. They took me to the city fair when my mom was at work, they let me enjoy their pets when our apartment didn’t allow them, they shared with me their stories when I was dealing with things I couldn’t fully understand. They were the good example I needed and the close friends I yearned.

Granted, I was still bullied in school. I’m not at all saying that their presence and companionship somehow made me less of a dork. I still made straight A’s, I still defended the Special Ed. kid everyone always tormented, and I still looked just as special as he did probably.

 

It took time for me to completely come into my own, to really know who I am and who I’m not. To be completely honest, I didn’t fully start to understand who I really am until I moved to New Orleans and had to make decisions for myself. But that is just a part of growing up.

You won’t know who you are at 9 years old. You won’t at 13 years old either. Few know who they are at 16. Add roadblocks and temptations to the equation and it gets even harder. But in all honesty, I know that the time I spent with these “special friends” from age 9 to 18 shaped me to be a better person. 

All of us can choose to be a significant part of a young person’s life in this manner.

Be there. Show them what life can be like if you live it in the right manner. Teach them that life goes on though today was bad or this month or this year. Assist them in working through their problems. Share with them your journey, your memories, your mistakes. Be their friend.

This world isn’t getting any better. Think about the issues and struggles you faced when you were young. Multiply it by 10. Young ones have it hard. Some of them have to overcome adult-sized problems. We all have the power to alleviate some of the pressure and stress these kids have to go through. It just calls for a little effort and initiative.

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