This I Believe

Allie - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on May 6, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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This I Believe

All throughout elementary school, I was known as the girl with the weird brother; the one whose younger brother supposedly walked out of the boys bathroom before pulling his pants up all the way, and the one who was always spinning around while walking because he never got dizzy. My family found out that my brother, Kevin, has autism when he was three years old. Growing up, I knew he was a little different, but it didn’t bother me; we had fun together. I didn’t care if he clipped stuffed animal jellybeans named Cherry Stan and Blueberry Ben to the belt loops of his pants or insisted that we drive down every street in our hometown, Ventura, at least once. But people at school didn’t understand that he couldn’t help his odd behavior, and they bullied him. Every time I heard people being mean to him, I got really frustrated and upset. I hated the way people talked about him and how they approached me and asked what was wrong with him.

Over the years Kevin’s autism has improved and he is no longer tormented. However, he still doesn’t have too many friends and he’s one of those kids who eats lunch alone at school and it breaks my heart. Kevin is one of the nicest, most interesting people I know, and he is one of my best friends. He can tell you everything about almost any rollercoaster in the whole world because, as he puts it, he is a “theme park enthusiast.” He even has his own website about it. Also, his amazing memory enables him to tell you exactly what he did on any specific day going as far back as about four or five years. When my friends meet him they love asking him, “Kevin, what did you do on, say, January 10th 2006?” They are shocked when he lists to them precisely what he did.

I have learned to be a more sympathetic person from my brother. In my group of friends, I am usually the one to hang out with people who are feeling excluded because I know how painful it can be. In middle school, I became great friends with a girl who was often left out because she bragged all the time. After getting to know her, I found out she was actually very nice. My other friends didn’t like her so it created some uncomfortable situations. One day, at lunch, a girl asked her, “Why are you eating lunch with us? We aren’t your friends.” Teary eyed, she responded, “Allie’s my friend.” Everyone looked at me, wanting me to tell her to leave. All I could think about was her eating lunch alone, just like my brother does, and I didn’t want that to happen. I told them she was my friend, and I wanted her to stay.

I believe that no one should have to eat lunch alone. Seeing my brother socially excluded made me realize how terrible it makes people feel, and I would never wish that upon anyone. Everyone is deserving of friendship, and everyone is capable of teaching people something valuable.