In the midst of a crowd, she’s alone. The gym is full of parents, students and other assorted spectators, and yet she’s by herself. Despite being seated next to her teammates, you can almost see the loneliness shimmering around her like sound waves. The players on her bench sit bunched up against each other, their ponytails swinging as they whisper to each other and shout encouragement to the players on the gym floor, but no one speaks to her and there’s a solid two feet of empty space between her the nearest teammate. She scrunches over as if to hide herself (a difficult prospect for a girl who stands 6’2″). I ache for this girl and I so wish I knew a way to comfort her. I think of the things I would say to her if I could:
I’d love to tell her that high school is NOT what the rest of life is like. Can I get an Amen?
I’d love to tell her that once high school is over, you are no longer limited by the social group you were (or weren’t) in.
I’d love to tell her that being set apart now does not mean that she will be apart forever.
I’d tell her about my recent high school reunion where Brain and Jock, Cheerleader and Nerd all hugged and shared stories and made plans to keep in touch. For real. And they’re doing it.
I’d tell her that she MATTERS, that her feelings are real and they count, but that she doesn’t have to be ruled by them.
I’d remind her that she is a talented artist with an incredibly bright future, and that one day I believe people will pay large amounts of money just to own a piece of her work.
I’d tell her that while right now what happens at school is her entire universe, once she graduates her high school life will get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror until it’s just a blur. That doesn’t mean that the emotional toll it can take on a young girl will just disappear into thin air, but it matters less and less as time goes by.
I’d describe my own high school experience and the times I felt invisible. And I’d challenge her to see if she can guess what “group” I was part of in high school. (I’ll give you a hint: I wasn’t a cheerleader)
I would tell her that when she gets to college in a couple of years, there will be more people around here who can appreciate the beauty she is, and the talent she possesses, and the spark of her personality – people who are not limited to the her they knew in high school.
I would tell her not to put too much importance in the opinions of other kids her age, because what do 16-year-olds know of the world? God’s opinion of her is that she is beautiful and loved, and if she had been the only person on earth, He still would have sacrificed His son for her.
Naturally, one of the reasons I feel so bad for this young girl is that I’ve stood in her place. Most of us have, at one time or other. I don’t know what makes the world of teenagers so dog-eat-dog but it’s tough on those kids who are a little more tenderhearted than their peers. I have one of those and she is almost 12, and it keeps me up at night sometimes trying to figure out the best way to shield her against those inevitable hurts, and there’s really no way to do it. She’s going to get bruised and maybe even scarred, but I’m going to be praying for her every day. And I’ll be praying for ME, for the wisdom I’m going to need to guide her into adulthood. And for the restraint to keep me from going all crazy-Mama on any mean girls who mess with my sweet girl.