I’m sitting at my computer on a beautiful day, when the Beatles/Badfinger song “Come and Get It” comes on. I knock over my water and my yogurt in a frantic effort to skip the song on my Pandora station. I immediately feel nauseated and think that I might not hold down the yogurt I have eaten.
Why in the world would I have a reaction like this to a song from the seventies?
Because that song played on my alarm clock every morning when I was in junior high school. We had just moved from Southern to Northern California, and I had left behind a school full of friendly faces. My new school was in a very wealthy area, and my hand-me-down, Southern California clothes didn’t make the cut.
I walked down the hallway on my first day accompanied by my mother. I had on a pair of white Levis with tulips all over them that were a little too short for me. They were a big hit in my old school, and there my friends overlooked the length because none of us had much money.
On this day, in this school, I heard kids laughing at me. One beautiful young girl walked by in her designer jeans and said, loudly, “nice pants.” Everybody laughed.
My heart sank, and while I laughed with them, I wanted to get in the car and run back to my old school.
That first year was incredibly difficult. Our new church didn’t have a parsonage, so we had to rent a small house from a member of the church that was miles from the school. My mom would drive us to school, and those thirty minutes would be my last moments of happiness until the bell rang at 3:00 p.m.
Because that song was a huge hit, it would play in the car on the way to school. It makes me remember how I felt when we’d pull up to the front of the school. My stomach would churn and my legs would resist getting out. I remember the lonely lunch period where I would try to find a place to sit that was inconspicuous. Until I met my support system of friends, each day lasted a lifetime.
The next year something miraculous happened. My acne cleared up, I got a babysitting job and bought new clothes, and my braces came off. Suddenly, I was cool enough to be in school. But the pain of that first year never left me.
Why should we be kind rather than cool?
Pay attention to your own behavior. Is there anybody you’re not having lunch with because they don’t seem to fit in with others? If so, call them up for lunch. They might have fascinating ideas that could add tremendous value.
The pain of being mocked or isolated never goes away. I think the memories have left until “Come and Get It” comes on my Pandora, and my 51-year-old hand frantically searches for the mouse so I can forward past it, and my stomach churns all over again. Today, be kind – not cool.
It’s a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’ — Aldous Huxley