Kyle - Hudsonville, Michigan
Entered on January 27, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

I shivered with nervous excitement when my seventh-grade teacher handed me that paper. It was not an academic grade, but an encouragement grade. I wasn’t being evaluated on my knowledge, but my personality. On this paper were personal pick-me-ups, written for me by my classmates. I excitedly read through each statement, basking in the self-confidence. But then my eyes hit something I could never forget. My heart skipped a beat, all my attention focused on the simple sentence that brought me back to reality: “I like how you are nice enough to notice me and say “hi” when you see me walking down the hall.”

I sat there, stunned. Though the note was unsigned I knew whose hand inscribed those words on the page and my heart. I shifted my gaze toward the quiet boy staring down at his desk, afraid to make eye contact, afraid to be noticed, afraid to live. It was then I realized how lonely “rock bottom” really was, where a single hello becomes another rung on the ladder stretching toward that last sliver of light.

I believe that no one should have to feel alone.

I will never allow myself to forget that moment, where a life could be changed by a single word. To know that no action, be it good or bad, goes by unnoticed. I realized that you cannot live until you live for someone else. Living for someone else does not mean you are always aware of your impact. But I now know that when you reach out, a life will be changed.

A year later that boy moved away, and I’ve never seen or heard of him since. It tears my heart that I never followed my conviction to befriend him because I willingly submitted to cliques and conformity. I’d do anything to have that year back, to show him that he is not alone. To let him know that he is not, and never has been, a nobody. He deserved better, and the worst thing was, I could have given him better.

I believe that no one should have to feel alone. This life is too short to get caught up in things like popularity and sports. Instead get caught up in people. Be there when someone needs a shoulder to cry on. Be there when a friend needs to vent. Be there when someone drops his book. Never let anyone feel alone.