Acts of bravery can be a matter of life or death. They can be done by powerful adults who understand the risk their courage could involve. They can be splashy, dramatic and witnessed by thousands, or even millions of people. I witnessed an act of bravery that was none of the above.
I teach middle school, probably because my middle school years weren’t easy to navigate and good teachers were part of what made those years bearable. And due to a medical problem and a cocktail of prescribed drugs, my eighth grade year was overwhelmingly negative, with one exception.
As eighth grade started a new girl started school at my middle school. She hovered on the edges of my group of friends, but my feelings toward her were neutral. There came a weekend and THE PARTY. You know, the kind of slumber party extravaganza you think will make or break you socially. Despite an invitation and much begging, I was unable to attend due to a family event.
The following Monday my best friend, CB, asked me, “Do you know that girl DS?” When I answered not really, she replied, “Well, she knows you.” Bracing myself, I listened to CB tell how the girls sat gossiping and my name came up. Some pretty brutal things were said about my weight, my looks, even my “drug” habit. In hindsight, I am fairly certain CB joined in. I was unprepared when CB said that DS defended me, telling the other girls they were wrong, she liked me and thought I was cool and nice.
In a life changing moment I simultaneously realized I would not have had her courage to be a free thinker and to check others opinions and I knew I wanted to be all of the things DS thought I was. I sought her out. I emulated her in many ways and she was my best friend through the next six years.
Time and poor decisions on both of our parts strained our friendship and we will never have the same relationship. But we live in the same town, share the same profession, are Facebook friends. And DS, every time I see my female students trying to balance being cool with being kind, I think of you and love you.