He’s that one kid.
You know exactly who I’m talking about.
Worn-out shoes a size too small and always untied.
Messy bed-head hair, or possibly just a buzz-cut so nobody has to bother with it in the morning.
He’s a bit rough around the edges, quick with a temper or a shove when things don’t go his way.
When you walk your child to their classroom in the morning, your Coach bag teetering on your shoulder and Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha firmly in hand, you see this kid.
And something about him makes you uneasy.
You make judgements on the spot about his family, his character.
He’s not the kind of kid you want your child to befriend. He’s trouble, always being sent to the office for this or that.
Or maybe she’s that little girl with crooked ponytails and a huge hole in her tights. She makes no eye contact with anyone, stands at the edge of the playground, and holds a death-grip on her wrinkled brown-paper lunch sack with no name written on it.
You heard from Suzie’s mom that Hayden saw her digging around in the lunchroom trash one day.
As you walk by her, something makes you hold your daughter’s arm and steer her ever so slightly away, away from this girl whose very existence threatens you.
Because she’s different.
I see your stares, hear the gossip.
Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be that one kid?
Some of these kids have already had a horrible day before the school bell rings at 8:30am.
No fault of their own, really.
Kids can’t pick their parents. They have little or no control over the adults in their lives, the crazy mixed-up shells of people who sometimes can’t even be bothered to bring them to school.
For days on end.
The yelling, harsh tones, foul language, tears….all before 8:30am.
Things that don’t belong in a child’s world.
And yet, these children soldier on.
Because for many of them, school is their respite from a chaotic, loud, and unpredictable world.
A world where kids are often expected to be little adults. They try to keep their parent pulled together with nothing more than wishes whispered in a dark bedroom each night.
So the next time you feel yourself veering away from that one kid, maybe you could offer a “Good Morning” instead.
Or simply a smile.
You might just be the one who makes a difference that day.