I watched as her pale, thin fingers thumbed through the sandwich. She pulled out the tomato and sat it down on the wrapper beside her. She looked to be 14 or 15. Her hair was long and stringy and her clothes were not in the latest style – hand-me-downs or discount store fashion I presumed. She was turned away from the other kids who sat as far down the bench as they could get from her. She was also turned into herself perhaps in an attempt to make herself invisible. She attracted no attention and sat quietly taking tiny bites form her sandwich. She pushed her thick glasses back onto her nose and neatly wrapped the rest of her sandwich and placed it in her bag. I watched as her thin, frail legs walked over to the table, she took a few oranges and a banana, and went back to her isolation to tuck them into her bag. Her lips were silent for the entire time that I watched and no one else made an attempt to talk to her either. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
In my mind, I developed a whole back story for this girl. I imagined what her siblings and parents were like. I figured that the khakis she had on were required by the school and that she had little money to go out and buy the latest style, so she was reduced to wearing hand-me-downs from her older sister or something that she could have gotten at Wal-Mart. The same went for her shoes. Watching her eating habits, I figured that there was probably not a lot to choose from at home and that her sneaking the extra fruit into her bag was a way for her to provide sustenance for herself. My heart hurt just looking at her. I knew just how she was feeling and the thoughts that were going through her mind. I knew because I have been “that” kid before. And it hurts.
I grew up in a small Southern town. Most of my childhood, I was overweight. I didn’t find the typical “guy things” like hunting, fishing and sports very interesting. I was a pretty good student and was certainly more artsy than athletic. My clothes didn’t always have the right logos and colors. And my name was Stacey. The odds were stacked against me. I was called all the names. I was always the last picked for the dodge ball team – and the first one out. I wasn’t invited to the coolest birthday parties. School was a nightmare for me. I would fake sick to be able to stay home. It was torture – absolute hell.
If you’ve ever been that kid, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The thing is, most folks are never that kid. They go on doing what the others do – laughing and mocking – in a effort to stay with the “in” crowd. I was fortune enough to find the right friends in high school and found my niche. The teasing and taunting never stopped altogether, but happened less. And I learned to deal with it better.
If you are that kid, let me tell you something… It WILL get better. It might seem like it’s endless, but it’s not. You must remember that people can only make you feel bad about yourself if you let them. Ignoring the haters will only make it worse for a period of time, but eventually they will lose interest and move on. I promise you this. Many of those people are just not built to deal with different, so they do what they do. But trust me, being different is okay. It will get better. I have been there. I have been called the names. I have been teased and shoved and picked on. Even as an adult, I find some social situations unnerving – I’ll never be able to shake those kinds of feelings. But you know what… some of those people who did those terrible things to me have asked me to sign their copy of MY book. And I will. And I will smile and write something kind with it, knowing the whole while that it’s my signature they want. I will be the bigger person. And one day you’ll get the chance to do it too. I promise. Keep your head up, do the right thing. One day, you might even be glad you were “that” kid. I am.
Y’all this Grits and Sausage Casserole is an absolute favorite. It’s easy and is a hearty breakfast that is perfect any time of the year, but especially during those cold winter months. I just know that your family will love it just as much as mine does.