This I Believe

Colleen - Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Words can hurt. As a child, I chanted with my classmates, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” I was naïve back then, and I didn’t understand the impact a few words can have on a person’s life. Words hurt me. They hurt my heart, they hurt my soul. I promised myself that I wouldn’t care what others thought of me, but I was wrong. During my eighth year of life, I began to understand the true power of words. My sister and I were the only Chinese Americans enrolled at our elementary school, which made us especially vulnerable to taunts and teases. I spent one month in third grade, and after that, I skipped to fourth grade. I wasn’t pretty enough or cool enough to hang out with the nicest girl in my class. I distinctly remember the snobby look on the red-haired girl’s face as she said, “Chelsea doesn’t want you over here!” I walked away that day with my best friend in another class and a group of girls laughing behind my back. The sting of feeling so unwanted, so unaccepted made me vow to find a friend that would love me the way I was.

After one month of third grade, I continued to fourth grade, where the students were even more aware of my race. We practiced switching classrooms during that year, where a boy, passing my way in the hallway, would hiss, “Chinese chicken”. He thought it was hilarious; I thought it was hateful and mean. I cried into my pillow the first time he taunted me, but it changed me for the better. I realized that there are better people in the world who I should look for support in, and that this boy wasn’t worth crying about.

Words can hurt. They can be used lovingly and gently, but they can also be deliberately used as weapons. A few words can change a person’s life, whether they are the loving words of a mother or the childish words of a fourth grader.