Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fitting In

I’m not a social butterfly. Nope. Never have been. Probably never will be. If there’s an event happening, chances are I’m off in a corner somewhere away from the excitement. I don’t need attention, I don’t want attention, and I certainly don’t go looking for attention. This should not be taken to mean that I don’t like people or I’m anti-social. I’m really quite friendly. I’m also comfortable in my own skin.

When I was in fourth grade, a substitute teacher was giving us a lesson about fitting in. “How many of you would like to be constantly teased?” she asked.

I raised my hand. I had been teased for as long as I could remember. To me, it was part of life. When I grew up, Jamie was not a common name for boys.

The substitute called on me and asked again, “You wouldn’t mind if everyone teased you?”

I shook my head. “It wouldn’t bother me,” I answered.

Trying to prove a point, the teacher told everyone in the class that they could tease me during the next recess. She might have thought I playing the role of the class clown and would back down, or she might have thought I would come sulking back from recess, sorry for my answer. (Of course, in today’s world, she’d be fired for what she did before the school day was done.) Regardless of her reason, she did it. She told the class to tease me during the next recess. They teased as best they could. I was called every name imaginable. I was chased and laughed at and had fingers pointed at me. Guess what? Recess ended, the teasing ended, and life went on. I didn’t cry, or sulk, or write everyone’s name down to seek revenge later in life. I took my lumps and moved on. (One girl tried teasing me after recess and I did get angry then because that wasn’t in the rules the teacher had given.) After that day, I don’t remember being teased again. Ever.

My point to this is that all of us are different for a reason. I think of the human race as a giant puzzle. We’re all pieces of that puzzle: some might have a straight edge or two; others none; while all have unique shapes that vary in subtle ways. We each have varying needs and wants and likes and appearances. And there’s a place for all of us in the puzzle—that’s what fitting in means. Alone, each piece is only part of the big picture, and without every piece, the puzzle isn’t complete.

Being a non-social type of person, I am inspired by stories of those who stand up to bullying and teasing. It’s hard to deal with such abuse and even harder to face it with strength. There’s no place for cruelty toward others in this world, and I believe that those who overcome such things are the champions of humanity.

Sometimes I’m good with words; I don’t think I was today. I just want people to know that humankind is better than those who choose to not let people fit in.

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