There was a recent tragedy involving a young female student here at Watertown High School. I won’t go into details out of respect for her family. The whole sad scenario causes me to flash back to my high school days.
I have tried and tried but I can not figure out why I was so miserable and lonely in high school. It’s true, I was a fairly shy kid and it did not help that my high school in Phoenix at the time had about 4500 students. I was one of those kids who just got lost in the crowd. It led me to absolutely hate school. One of my clearest memories is the way I dealt with lunch time at school. The idea of going into the cafeteria was overwhelming to me because I had no one to sit by or to talk to. No one. So, for about two years, every lunch period, I would simply hide in different bathrooms until the bell rang. Many years have passed since high school and these memories still make me emotional.
I recall all the school assemblies felt the same way. One time there was some kind of pep rally at the football field during the day. Of course, I knew that I would be sitting by myself and that felt like more than I could bear. On this particular occasion I was caught for not being at the rally. I was taken to the principal’s office and was given some kind of punishment. The principal never asked me why I was off on my own. Maybe he was too busy. Maybe he forgot why he wanted to work with students in the first place. I do know that he looked right through me.
You may wonder, I know I do, why didn’t I ever tell anyone? Why didn’t I open up to anyone? My best guess is that I was embarrassed. Who wants to be the kid that is hiding in bathrooms while everyone else is carrying on with life? It was not until many years had passed that I felt the freedom to share some of these memories with others.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because during these years I was not a bad kid. I was shy. I was scared. I did not fit in with the crowd (or with anyone for that matter). You know what would have made all the difference to me during high school? If someone, student, teacher, faculty, had reached out to me and asked me how I was doing. Someone who would look beyond my aloof behavior and try to connect with me on a relational level. I honestly believe that if I had one good friend during high school that it would have made all the difference.
My encouragement to students, parents and school faculty is to look for those who are on the fringe. Look for those who don’t seem to have many friends. Don’t be quick to judge. You don’t know how tough their family life is. You don’t know the personal demons they are dealing with. You don’t know their fears, worries or concerns. Once you start looking I believe you will see them all around you. Then, take some small steps to reach out to them. Start asking them how they are doing. Share a meal with them. You never know when you are going to step into the life of a student who desperately needs someone that cares about them and will be a friend to them.