It only takes one act of kindness to change the direction a young life is moving in.
Bullied all throughout my days in public and charter schooling, I was always the sore thumb, singled out by teachers, students, neighborhood children, even other adults. It’s not a cry of being a victim, it’s just the hand I was dealt as a child. Harsh lies led me to be placed in the backs of classrooms, detention rooms, even therapy. A teacher put me in therapy. She later had her teaching licence revoked due to her treatment of students.
I continued on like this throughout my school career until, finally, I gathered the courage to join my high school’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, and immediately I noticed a change in myself, because of a change in the way people talked to me, the way I was treated.
One in particular, the ranking cadet during my first year of the program, made a simple gesture that changed the way my life has been going since that day.
He listened to me while I spoke…
It wasn’t someone just making noise, I became someone with something to say. I couldn’t even remember what it was that spurred the conversation between this senior and a sophomore, but the fact that he paid attention for what seemed like the first time in my life, I felt like I had something to say, something to do, and it’s snowballed in my life ever since.
His and other’s little comments of motivation and kindness catapulted me to a place I had never been, and suddenly I found myself feeling something I’d never felt before in my life.
I’ve noticed small changes in myself ever since then. I speak a little louder, the way I speak is changing slowly every day. I don’t have to use words like “hate” and “alone” as much as I used to, and I’m working to break the habit of using them at all. It’s difficult; at one point in my life, it seemed like I hated more than I loved. I’m trying not to be defensive or timid anymore, I’m trying not to hide my insecurities with distance or aggression. I don’t want to push people away anymore out of fear of false sincerity or cruel jokes.
I’ve gathered the confidence to stand up for those around me, as well as myself, and I’ve tried to continue what he taught me that day. I try to listen every chance I get. I’m no longer bullied. I stand up for myself…because I’m someone with something to do with my life, and something to say, and I know now that it’s something worth listening to.
I want to continue to spread friendship to those who may not know it, or may not know what it really is.
I worked to become the ranking cadet my senior year, and I worked every day to be for younger cadets what that good friend was for me when I was in their shoes, and on a misty evening in May of 2009, after I walked across a stage in a red cap and gown, with honor chords and military organization honors and medals, a cadet who lived in a foster program, came to me and thanked me.