The other day, I had been walking down the hallway at school just before fourth period. I had expected the walk to be as uneventful as ever, but I was wrong. As I neared my classroom, I saw a girl standing in front of her friends, knocking the books out of a boy’s arms. Her friends laughed as she made fun of him. And as for me, I had never felt more torn.
The look on this boy’s face was one of complete horror and embarrassment. I did not know what to do. Was I supposed to keep walking, like everyone else in the hallway? Was I supposed to stop and help him pick up his books? I certainly wanted to do the latter, but after a moment’s hesitation I realized that perhaps he did not want help. I might make the situation worse by taking action. It felt as though I was walking on glass, and it was one of the most painful feelings I had ever felt.
We have all been the brunt of a joke. And if not, maybe that is just something I tell myself to feel better. We all know what it feels like to be judged for what we look like, how we act, what clothes we wear. I knew what it felt not to be good enough. I could easily relate to this boy as he bent to pick up his books, his head down as if to hide from the humiliation.
I had taken a moment to look around — to assess the situation. There was, of course, this girl standing with all of her friends laughing at him still. And there had been at least 70 students that had walked by in the last minute alone. Then I wondered: why isn’t anyone doing anything? Why is it that everyone ignores this boy?
All through fourth period, I came up with questions. What gave this girl the right to pick on anyone she chose? Did her friends really think her jokes were funny? Or were they only laughing for the same reason the people in the hallway kept walking? Does this mean that no one cares enough to actually help someone in need? How would it feel if you were in the boy’s situation? Would you not want someone to intervene and help you out?
I had seen this boy before. He was in one of my classes. He sat in his seat the whole class period, taking notes avidly and listening to every word the teacher said. It is clear that he takes pride in what he knows.
After a while, I did not feel sorry for the boy, but instead for the girl. She was clearly insecure and needed to lower someone else’s self esteem just to raise her own. But was it worth it? Did she even know how badly she hurt this boy? And the worst of it — she didn’t even know him. It makes me incredibly sad that this boy was judged like he was. Maybe if she had given him five minutes of her time, she could have gotten to know him, learned something about him that they had in common. He could have been exactly what she needed in a friend.
We all judge other people, and yes — even me. But the difference between me and the girl I saw before fourth period is that I would put my judgments aside. What would you do? Would you be the girl making fun of the boy? Would you be the boy being made fun of? I wish I had known what to do.
The world is a sad and broken place in many ways. People are judged every which way. People are made fun of. People are looking for a place to belong. Mix it up a bit. Invite people into your life, no matter what they look like or what they wear. Treat others with respect. And help those who need it. Everyone has a great deal of depth within them, and if we could see that by looking at them, I believe that girl would not have made fun of that boy. Do not be afraid to sacrifice your reputation for your character. Someone who values their reputation more than their character, to me, is the biggest coward there is.
Yesterday, I sat down beside that boy at lunch. I introduced myself, and we got to talking. Just as I had known, he was a great person. He told me random jokes and laughed at mine. And now, I make a point to talk to him every day. I seized the opportunity that the girl making fun of him had not. I put my character before my reputation in order to get to know someone I knew was worth it. And what a surprise — he makes a great friend.
Ilena Adamson is a Bothell resident and Henry M. Jackson High junior.