After Junior High, my parents moved to a neighboring city, which meant a new group of kids and a new High School for me. In Jr. High I was part of the ‘popular crowd’. But going into a new situation after our move, I was nervous and shy and scared out of my wits to make new friends. The popular crowd tried to recruit me…
I was conventionally pretty, stylish, and I looked the part. I should have fit right in. But I resisted. Invitations to football games, after-parties, lunch dates, all went unanswered by me. One of the football players wanted to date me, and presumptively and self-righteously, I retorted that I would never give him what he wanted.
The truth is, I was scared to be in a situation that I didn’t know how to handle. I didn’t drink and I wasn’t going to be having any sex. I was a good Christian girl and I didn’t want to be in a position to have to say no. All my old friends new this about me and accepted me for it. But this was a whole new ballgame that I wasn’t prepared to play.
So instead, I clung to the misfits and outcasts and befriended the lonely. I imagine it was just as challenging for me to befriend them, as it was for the popular kids to befriend me. I didn’t look their part. I bathed. I read the Bible. I didn’t wear black all the time. And I was never found smoking at the Stoner’s bench on lunch breaks and after school. So I had to earn their trust and respect.
Though they smoked, drank, and did drugs, somehow, it was different. They did those things to fill voids in their lives. The popular crowd did those things to be cool. At least, those were my perceptions. I didn’t want to be cool. I wanted to connect with people and make a difference in others’ lives. Some mistake my way of being then for altruism – but I do not fool myself. I had my own masks like everyone else, and this was the one I was comfortable wearing.
Years later after high school, one of these so-called misfits tracked my parents down to find me. He sent a box with a his cut off hair in a braid. He was on his way to the army, and wanted to thank me for befriending him in high school. So he gave me his hair. Yeah, a little creepy. But I received the sweet gesture behind it.
To this day I feel fiercely loyal to the underdog. I know what it’s like to feel on the fringes of society, to not be sure where your place is, if you have a place at all.
Let’s make sure our kids know to be nice to outcasts, the fat kids, the weirdos; to stick up for the underdogs. They’ll gain respect for it and start a trend with their peers if they are not ashamed in doing it. They may also change the course of somebody’s life by believing in them, and never even know it.