This I Believe

Natalie - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on March 16, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Middle school is a hard time for everyone. It’s like being a tiny fish in a school of one million. You are forced to stick together but what you really want more than anything is to stand out, to find something that you’re really passionate about. Finding this personal niche means messing up a lot and creating false drama on a daily basis. I would often come home upset after having a fight with a friend or because people were just being mean. I was enraged at first when my mom wasn’t supporting me on my decision to never speak to one of my classmates again, but now I realize that she couldn’t have reacted better. “ Natalie, what she did may have been mean, but even mean people need friends.” My mom taught me to be nice to everyone, and I’ll remember what she said and live by it every day. I believe that even mean people need friends.

My first thought after my mom dished out this intense piece of advice was that she was crazy. Why would I want to be friends with someone who didn’t treat me with respect? And I certainly didn’t want to invite Sara to my birthday the next week when she had very publicly removed me from her sledding party guest list just the day before because I “hadn’t known her as long as the other girls. My eleven-year-old brain couldn’t grasp the idea of responding to mean and selfish behavior with complete understanding and kindness. My mother sat me down on our big green couch and showed me the world from a different perspective.

In the fifteen minutes or so that we talked, my entire thought process got somewhat reversed. My mom explained how unfriendly people, especially kids, were the ones who needed kindness the most. She said that they were probably lonely or sad and that a smile or compliment from me could brighten their whole day, even if they didn’t smile back or say thank you. My mom taught me to have compassion for others and that you can never have too many friends.

I’d like to think that I learned a lot from my mom. I’m not saying that I’m friendly one hundred percent of the time and don’t get upset about silly fights anymore, because I do. But I do try to go out my way every day to make someone else’s day just a little more pleasant. I’ve had my bad days before and I know that something as simple as someone asking me how I’m doing or telling me my hair looks good or maybe just pretending not to notice when I stumble down the hallway can make all the difference.