When I was nine years old and in the fourth grade I had a medical problem that required me to be hospitalized and then a recuperation at home that took several weeks. During that time my teacher, Mrs. Simpson, instructed the entire class to write get well letters to me. One still sticks out in my memory.
“You’re not my best friend anymore. My new best friend is Pam.” – Carla
Nice get well letter.
After several weeks I went back to school. And Carla and Pam were best friends. And I sat alone on the playground.
Pretty pitiful, right?
Please let the power of that memory sink in. I STILL remember that. I still remember that it hurt. But fortunately I turned out ok. It sucked when I was nine and it would suck at any age. And it has. I’ve felt ignored and I have felt excluded even as an adult. I am thankful that I had enough other friendship and love in my life that those hurtful moments could not possibly usurp what I cultivated as loving, healthy, and reciprocated relationships.
Not everyone is so lucky are they?
I attended my son’s winter band concert last week. I sat alone for a while as I waited for my friends to share this event with me. Sometimes I have pity party moments because I see dozens of families and I feel alone in my single parenthood. I gazed around the auditoreum and began counting the number of people who had their heads buried in their smart phones, tapping and texing away- oblivious of their children and ignoring the people sitting around them. I felt sad for them and just a bit disgusted. I stopped counting when I got to twenty-four. I was so relieved when my best friend showed up and then another friend came with her kids and I felt connected and not so alone.
I can only imagine a fraction of the pain a person feels when exclusion exerts it poison. I do know what it can lead to, though. It’s not the only reason a person might resort to anger and eventual violence, but it’s a good place to start with our sociological magnifying glass.
We must look outward at our society and we must look inward at our own hearts. Do we like what we see? If not, we have a responsibility to change. We have a responsibility to love and include.
Too simple? Sometimes the really hard things must begin with the simple obvious things. And it needs to happen now before another tragic event occurs and we scratch our heads wondering why.