You called after me today, chasing me in circles after I had taken J.’s shoe and threw it in the mud puddle. I wouldn’t come to you. I ran away. You followed me around and around the playground while I stomped my feet on silent ground. As if by stomping there might be a noise to match my feelings.
I was frustrated. Angry. Tired and lonely. And I didn’t want to hear someone tell me for the bazillionth time all that I had done wrong. How I had been a bully.
The truth is: I know. I know I am a bully. I know what I did was wrong. I know all that stuff. I just wish the world knew the rest of the story. The stuff I keep locked away inside my head.
Stuff about me- that are secrets.
That I feel alone most of the time.
That I have a hard time making friends.
That I am lonely and scared when it comes to free time. ‘Cause I sometimes don’t know what to do. Where to go and who to turn to.
That sometimes I do things I don’t want to do. And I don’t understand why.
That I wish people liked me more.
And I wish I could just run and play, like all the rest of them.
But I can’t. Because I’m different.
You finally caught up to me. You smiled and crouched down at my level. You voice was soothing and calm. You didn’t even look angry. But I was still afraid even though I tried to trust your words of hope anyway.
I told you then- when you reached for me by the swings- told you that I hated myself. Told you that I know I am mean, know I am a bully. And I couldn’t stop telling you ALL THE WORDS about myself. Because those words are inside my head yelling at me, demanding to come out.
When you tell yourself something for long enough, you start to believe it. Start to think it is the really, trully-est truth.
The truth that I am stupid.
That I am mean.
That I am not good. Not kind. Not a nice person.
And after I told it, you looked at me with your serious eyes and said, “No you are not.” You are not all those things.
You are great- you are smart and wonderfully good. You are more than what you think you are.
And you showed me with your eyes that you believed this other truth more than the one I was telling you. Believed that I was more than what I thought of myself. I was BETTER.
And even though I wanted to stay by that swing forever and never let it go, you convinced me to turn around and face my fears. To walk in that door and listen to the voice of truth telling me I was MORE.
And we walked into the school together.
And I carried on even when I thought I couldn’t.
And Teacher, even though the world isn’t perfect and sometimes I only see the truths that are angry and twisted, I will never forget the truth you made me believe in that moment.
Because you took the time.
Because you cared.
Thank you, Teacher, for believing in me even when I couldn’t.
That Student on the Playground