“Is there any way you can pick her up?” My wife asked a bit on the stressed side. “Sure,” I said, “I can pick her up, when?” Then came the “ah-hah” moment for her anxiety, “Now!” She answered. I don’t usually pick up our youngest from school and had conveniently forgotten about the madhouse it can be.
On my way to pick up my daughter I had to pass a middle school… check that. Make that navigate another school. It was a traffic jam – people parked in places the signs warned them not to, cars cutting in front of other cars, kids being corralled into the cross walk and a stressed out volunteer crossing guard.
I knew from the years of hauling the girls back and forth from schools that the crossing guard was a fill-in. The panic and wear in the late afternoon along with the high heels were a dead give away. I stopped, waiting for the kids and painfully slowly walking crossing guard to clear out along with the cars with a better pole position in front of me.
As I waited I studied the scenario… I remember those years… the freedom and independence that comes with that age. I watched the kids yelling, laughing, crowded in the groups they would come to be associated with… if they were lucky… The groups got smaller the farther I got from the heart of the Exodus. The big groups of kids numbered around twenty. The medium-sized were five to ten kids.
There were quite a few duo’s – no girls and boys, all pals, girls with girls and boys with boys. They might very well be more blessed than are the kids in the bigger groups, they just don’t know it yet. What I know and they know, including every kid from every group, is they’re all more blessed, our from their perspective, “lucky” than the other group of kids.
The kids that are the farthest from the well named “place of learning,” are the ones who aren’t talking to anyone. They aren’t held up by talking, sharing, joking, laughing, and hanging out with friends. They are alone… they’re on the outside looking in. I witnessed the reality from a sobering perspective that day.
I never spent any precious thoughts on the lonely kids when I was their age, but an old heart melts for friendless kids now-a-days… Some of them looked a little different; shorter, taller, bigger, smaller, more mature, less mature, and most not dressed as “hip” as the other kids.
I was fortunate to live the tale of two kids when I was around their age. It didn’t feel like fortunate, it felt more like a life long punishment with a good dose of misery mixed in for good measure at the time. It was between my eighth grade and freshman year that my parents moved us from the small one school town to the big city.
I quickly transformed from being one of the loud-mouthed cocky kids to being one of the outsiders… I was fortunate to play sports, but on many occasions I’d walk toward home among the smattering of invisible kids. I didn’t know it at the time, but God used the worst possible scenario for a kid my age to bring about the desperately needed change.
I used what I couldn’t know was an opportunity at the time to never be in the big group again. The big groups are made up of kids that feel immense pressure… more than the ones who are seemingly invisible. The “hip” kids are so desperate to be in the “in” crowd, they’ll do just about anything to get in it and stay there… I know, I lived it.
That was the point in my life when I made a choice to be strong enough to be in the group of few to none and never let the other kids on the outside disappear around me. It’s amazing how saying, “Hey!” can change a day and a world of the ones on the outside who have yet to figure out how good they have it.
While my heart pulled for the outsiders as I drove by them wishing they could know that I saw them, I’m reminded that it’s the other kids insecurities that might be the saddest of all…
The ones who are really alone and just don’t know it because they’re standing in a crowd…