The one looking sad the other day. The one who was so nice to my little boy. The one so obviously filled with sweetness inside that quiet shell. The one who was getting picked on by those other kids. The one who said not a word as they were teasing you, adding "fat" to your name, calling you over and then running away because they might catch your "fatness." The one who looked so incredibly hurt while the wolves tore into you.
The one who broke my heart.
There were so many things I wanted to say to you, so many things I wanted to do besides what I did. Nobody deserves to be talked to like that. And my son? He's only six. I watched him watching you, watching them, watching me to see what my reaction would be. He's learning what's right and what's wrong, and I sure as hell wasn't going to teach him that the proper thing to do when someone is getting bullied is to sit on the bench, play with a smartphone and pretend it's not happening. So I stepped in, and I gently told them they needed to stop, and that it wasn't funny, and that I was the one on the receiving end of words like those once upon a time, and it hurts in ways they probably don't even realize.
It stopped, of course, but who knows for how long? And that's why there was so much more I wish I could say to you.
First of all, I'd tell you I've been there. And in some ways, I'm still there. I mean, I'm kinda still chubby, in case you hadn't noticed.
Alright, fine: I'm downright obese. You could probably even throw "morbidly" in front of that and no doctor would bat an eyelash.
But guess what? They don't actually care that you're overweight, dude. They're just looking for a way in, and that happens to be an obvious one. But it could be anything. Anything. Trust me. I wasn't always two Kit Kats shy of a Costco crate, and kids just like those ones still found stuff about me to tear down.
Today I walked into the school yard - your school yard - to pick up my kids. I do this every day, and I have yet to talk to a single parent. They all have their little groups formed and none of them chat outside of those groups. Adults can be just as cliquey as kids.
And while I was walking, I tripped and fell onto the gravel. Bare legs met rock. A bunch of people noticed, but not a single person asked me if I was okay. I got up, dusted myself off and walked the rest of the way into the yard with blood trickling down my shin. No one said a word to me. It was like high school all over again.
But here's the thing: I'm at the point in my life where I realize those are their issues, not mine. Kind people show concern for others. If they're not kind, they're not worth my time. The good news is that the school yard isn't my entire world these days. It's only tiny fraction of my afternoons. The rest of my life is filled with friendly people, helpful people, wonderful people. I hope you have people like that in your world, too.
You are worth so much more than those boys at the park realize, and probably more than you realize. I saw your hopeful look when they called you over to the play structure. They had just finished going back and forth between hurling insults and ignoring you, and yet you still hoped it was all a misunderstanding, that they were going to make everything right and be your friends.
I've had that hope. I've wasted time on those who weren't worth it. Until you realize you deserve better, you won't seek out better, you won't insist on better, you won't receive better. You have to invite it in. Those guys are not worth your time and energy, even if they sometimes pretend to be your friend. And if you waste that time and energy, you won't have it for someone better.
I have great people in my world today because I'm a great person. I know this for a fact. I'm not a perfect person or a gorgeous person or a wildly successful person, but I'm great. Seriously. I really want you to know that you are, too. You shine brighter than you can ever imagine, but that light is on the inside. You have to stoke the fire of awesome until it grows big enough to be seen from the outside. It can take a really long time to build a fire that big, but you do it a little bit at a time.
First, you tell those boys where to shove it next time they tease you. Find your voice, find your power. There's some kindling for you.
Then, you start walking taller every day, and you start smiling. More kindling.
You speak up when something's not right, you mentor a younger kid, you volunteer somewhere and meet other amazing people of all ages, you give a damn good presentation and wow your class, you hang out on the weekend with that other quiet kid in class and build a real friendship, you go into that park without fear... and before long, that is one incredible fire in your belly, and it's shining everywhere.
I was you, little dude (except with pigtails), and it's not an easy way to grow up. It can be lonely and dark and you might feel like it'll never get better. But what you're going through right now, while painful and challenging, is going to give you wisdom and strength beyond measure, if you let it.
Confidence is a hard thing to hold onto when people always seem to be trying to beat it out of you. But once that fire gets going, believe me, it would take an ocean to extinguish it.
Trust me. I'm full of it - confidence, I mean. I'm The Maven. Or, as you probably know me, The Weird Lady at the Park who Distracted Those Boys Just Long Enough That You Could Get Out of There That One Time.
I hope you went off to find some kindling.