Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Kind Word Costs Nothing

I don't understand people sometimes.

We're an odd group of mammals, us humans. We are so co-dependant that our mental, physical, and emotional well being relies on the actions and reactions of others in our species. If we feel put off, or let down at any time, it could trigger an immense chain of reactions in our brains that could eventually lead to our demise. Maybe not an immediate demise (unless we're talking about suicide) but a long, drawn out suffering.

I still remember the first time anyone ever hurt my feelings...

I was an awkward kid. Heck, I still am. But back in first grade I had the biggest crush on a boy that will go by the initial of J. I thought he was just the bee's knees and could be king of my mountain any day. I was always nice to him. I gave him my chocolate milk at lunch, and shared crayons with him. I let him out to the playground before me and always laughed at his jokes and silly faces. One day, my best friend B told J that I liked him. He then looked at me from across the lunch table, screwed up his face in the most disgusted look ever, and ran off screaming into the hallway claiming he didn't want my girl cooties.

I went home crying and stayed home from school the next two days.

I eventually returned to school and went back to my normal routine of coloring, napping, and being the pretentious line leader every day for the best behavior. However, something changed. I stopped being so nice to J. Instead, I tormented him, I exiled him from my lunch group and I refused him any chocolate milk too. That poor kid missed out on chocolate milk, the greatest thing to ever grace the food pyramid, because he hurt my feelings...

Fast forward 12 years.

My senior year in high school was the next time I had a class with J. He no longer went to my high school but we did have a community college art class together when we were seniors doing some extra credit work. We had seen each other around campus, but we never really spoke. One day after class, I was packing up my books to leave for the day. I saw him drop his notebook and papers scattered like leaves in the wind. I walked a few feet over to help him get the pesky ones that slid underneath the bookcase when our re-connection happened. It wasn't one of those movie scenes where we grab the same sheet of paper and our eyes lock and we sheepishly smile at each other and then we're oddly interrupted by his bogus best friend yelling about a fight on the quad. No, it was just me, giving him a piece of paper, and him, looking at me, and smiling. We got to talking on our walk to our next class and became better friends throughout the last few weeks of our high school career. On the next to last day of school, I finally got the nerve to ask him something I had been wondering for 12 years: what was so wrong with me that made him run, screaming in terror, down the primary colored hallways of our youth?

I could tell by the feigned look of confusion on his face the he knew exactly what I was talking about. I admitted that it had often bothered me that I didn't know his true reason from running away from me so many years before. He simply explained that, well, for one, he was terrified of getting cooties at that age and was sure it was the first grader's form of AIDS and two, he didn't like girls at all. Not then, not now, not ever.

I was the first person J came out to, but I wasn't the first to know. Apparently, at his high school, he was constantly bullied for his sexual orientation. He was outcasted and overall shunned from everyone he knew. He had to hide who he truly was on the inside, in order to keep his world together on the outside. He was in a constant state of sorrow and torment and I could see it in his eyes that one day, things would break. Over that summer I convinced J to come out to his parents. I convinced him that out of everyone in this world, they would be the most loving and understanding ones to tell. One night, as I waited in his driveway, he came running out of his house, bag in hand, and tears in his eyes....I was wrong. He was kicked out of his house and was running off to live with his boyfriend who was older and had his own place. I kindly comforted him and assured him everything was going to be perfectly fine as I drove my heartbroken best friend to the last place I would ever see him. I made him promise me he would be okay as he left my car, and I watched him enter the apartment in my rearview mirror as I drove off into the dusk.

Four days later I was lying a carton of chocolate milk on his freshly dug grave. J had gone to that apartment, found the spare key, entered the living room, and shot himself with a gun he had hidden in his bag. His boyfriend was the first on the scene, arriving just twenty minutes after I dropped him off.

Humans are strange creatures, so desperately needing the approval of others in our species...and if we fail to receive that approval, we're drastically emotional. So let this be a reminder to you, that no matter if you make a disgusted face, or call someone a mean name, or bully someone relentlessly because they're different from you....there will be a reaction. They might bottle it up for years and let it just be a small memory from their foolish childhood, or it might be the last thing they're ever thinking of....

Be kind. Spread peace.

You're always in my heart J. I hope there are fountains of chocolate milk in heaven.


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