Dan - Tempe, Arizona
Entered on May 13, 2008

This I Believe…

Individuality seems like such a cliché topic. Just hearing it probably sends an image of some generic kid’s movie that revolves around an outsider that is ostracized by everyone in the beginning, but finds a talent that he can exploit and in the end gains the love and appreciation of his entire community forever and ever. That is about as boring and lame as anyone can get. While my story starts out the same way, it takes a very realistic turn and unfortunately does not have a happy ending. This is my story of a boy named Robbie Albright.

It was the first day of school, first period, Honors Sixth Grade English. Robbie was unlike anyone at that school. Unfortunately he was born with defects that left him deformed and small. His head was too large for his body, and I would later find out in P.E. that he had scars all over his body from multiple heart surgeries. Anyways, I initially pitied Robbie and his appearance to say the least. Not wanting to exclude this boy from making friends, I went up to talk to him. He startled me with articulate speech and a wide vocabulary, one I had not heard from any other sixth grader. He had a recognizable voice of a young child, but spoke perfectly through his under bite. I was young and naïve, and expected speech impediments from a child who looked the way he did. While this is a bit off topic, that first day of middle school was the day I really found the meaning to the old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.”

We would only hang out sporadically, and never outside of school, but I had a growing admiration for Robbie. He was three grades higher in math and was in all of my honors classes. He tried his best to participate in P.E., but was limited due to his health. But what he lacked in physical fitness, he twice made up for it in academics. He was probably the smartest kid in the sixth grade, and was adored by all teachers for his gift in academics. However, amongst the student body, he was ridiculed behind his back for his appearance and his seemingly overly nice personality. I’m ashamed to say that there have been moments when I participated in such ridicule. Yet for the most part I tried my best to treat him as kindly as I could. I always said hello, and during lunch would converse about weekend plans, or homework assignments we did not like. Overall, I could confidently say that he saw me as friend more than just a classmate.

Seventh grade had begun. Robbie, again, was in all my classes, save for math. By this year I had made a lot of new friends in all my classes, and would constantly get in trouble for talking during class and procrastinating with homework assignments. Seventh grade was fun, but my admiration for Robbie faded. I would grow annoyed of him every time he came to me during lunch while I was talking to my “cooler” friends, and made fun of him behind his back a couple of times. Everyone else would, and not wanting to be left out of the group, I would chime in to be accepted. Robbie never hung out with a set group, and would for the most part eat alone

Soon, winter break came, and we all left school for two weeks. While vacation was fun, coming back to school from break and boredom was even better than leaving. I had missed all my friends and was eager to hear about their Christmas. Yet this would be one of the saddest and most memorable days of my life. English came. Robbie was not there and my Teacher was red eyed, yet I did not put the two scenarios together in my mind at the time. Then she made an announcement. Over break, Robbie had died in his sleep due to heart complications. This was the first time any friend of mine, or anyone I remember well for that matter, had died. And while this was seemingly devastating, it’s what came after the news that really stunned me. My teacher pulled out a journal entry from his notebook, and read it aloud. While I vaguely remember specifics, what I do remember was that Robbie had come to terms with his eventual death. Yet he was determined to make everything in life worthwhile. He was extremely gifted in math, and had won a large competition amongst students in the state in our age group. He talked about his family and the memories he shared with them. And then he talked about his memories in our class. He mentioned my antics in class and all the jokes that made him laugh. It was his journal entry that really shook me up. This young boy knew he would most likely die at such a young age, yet he found the strength to live life as best as possible and become his own person. No one had the power to stop him from trying to accomplish his goals, and it was at that moment I truly realized that being your own individual is more important than anything else. From this entry I started to take a profoundly different outlook on life in general. And while the view has waned over the years, every time I crack open that seventh grade yearbook, I remember Robbie and his accomplishments that really set him apart from all the other kids.

So that is what I believe. From the life and death of a little boy, I learned that being an individual is far more important than trying to conform and please the masses. Robbie Albright fought through health issues and what was probably imminent death to fulfill his dreams. This is my tribute to the life of Robbie Albright.