When I was in eighth grade, a new guy came to our school.
Actually, being neither the most observant nor the ost socially smooth person in the world, I wasn’t sure if he was new to the school or if I just hadn’t met him before wehn he came to my drama class. Until it became apparent that he sat at the same seat on the far corner of a table every day- all alone.
Now, in eighth grade, it was my philosophy that it was the guys’ responsibility to take a new guy under their wing. It irked me that the entire table of males right behind him paid him no notice. I would squeak to my friends how “sad” it was that he sat alone- complete with the high-pitched vocal sweep so characteristic of middle-school girls. They didn’t seem overly concerned. For my part, I was worried that, as in accordinace with the complicated Venus-fly-trap-field of middle school social customs,sitting with random guy at lunch equaled rumors you were going out with him equaled embarassment equaled bad. So I swallowed my sympathy and finished my lunch.
One day, as usual, I was passing by his table balancing whatever concoction Sodexo-Marriott had thrown together that day, fully expecting to simply glide past like every other day. But at the last second, a magnetic force lassoed me back and swept me down onto the tilted plastic seat in front of him. “Hi,” I said, bracing myself for an awkward conversation.
But it really wasn’t awkward at all. Guys have this weird way of showing their inner gentleman when you least expect it. He was funny, and what he had to say was really interesting. He’d moved back and forth between the U.S. and the Czech Republic his whole life. “My dad said we were staying in the Czech Republic for good,” he said. “Apparently to him, ‘for good’ means four years.” He told me about floods in his city, sleeping on the floor the first night they were here, the television set a friend of hte family had given him (much to his father’s TV-detesting disapproval). I felt stupid when I asked what language they spoke in the Czech Republic. “Czech,” he said.
One of my friends did accuse me of going out with him- with really loud giggles. But did it really matter? Do any of those middle-school social codes really make a difference? And I wonder what it would be like if everybody assumed responsibility for making everybody around them feel good about being with them. I believe that would be a big step closer to something really good- maybe even to bringing heaven to earth.
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