About a week ago a young girl who frequents the bookshop and likes to chat with me came into the store and told me that Grandparents/Special Friend Day was coming up at her school.
Me: Oh fun!
Her: Well, yes, except, my grandpa can’t make it.
Me: Oh no… that’s a bummer.
Her: Well… I was wondering… since he can’t make it, I’m allowed to invite a special friend…. Would you be my special friend?
What’s that? Oh, that mess on the floor? It’s just my heart in liquid form. Once I regain my composure, I’ll get a mop and clean it right up, I promise.
So, yeah, today I got to go to the local Montessori school for two hours and be this girl’s Special Friend for the day, which basically consisted of getting to wear a pin with her face on it and going to classes with her to get a peek into her life at school, followed by a choir concert before we were all dismissed and released back into the wild. It was delightful and I have never felt cooler.
At one point in the day, we were sitting in her homeroom (which is not called homeroom, but I can’t remember the cute Montessori term they used, so I’m just applying public school terms to this situation) and as I was looking around, I noticed that on the wall above their 3-D printer (whaaaaaaat) were 8×10 photos of each student and a sentence about who they want to be or what they want to do with their lives. It was cute. While my special friend made her homework to-do list for the week, I started reading each kid’s sentence. Most of them were standard: “I want to be a teacher,” or “I want to change the world,” or one kid’s read “I want to make the world laugh” (rock on, little buddy), and then I found my young friend’s photo.
“I want to be different.”
Things in the news have been bleak lately and I’ve been trying really hard to keep my optimism going and to only perpetuate happy thoughts. If you’ve noticed, a good amount of my twitter posts consists of cute puppies and other baby animals. I just want to make people smile and to let them know that there are still things to be happy about.
When I saw this girl’s sentence, I felt that feeling that I try and make everyone else feel, and all day long I’ve been trying to figure out why that made me smile. I think it’s because people who intend to be different are the people who tend to think about why they do what they do or don’t do. This girl, a sixth-grader, is already adamantly refusing to give in to peer pressure and blending in. She has already decided that standing out was better than all that.
It also helps that I know her, so I know that her version of different isn’t achieved by being cruel or tough, but instead by memorizing strange facts and befriending booksellers. It’s by writing silly poems and drawing goofy pictures of people, and by volunteering to help build book displays while her dad goes grocery shopping instead of staying home and taking selfies (not that I think selfies are bad, mind you, I just think that a lot of kids would rather take selfies than hang out in bookshops). She’s a do-gooder and an all around cool kid. She’s certainly different, but I’m certain that she’s not alone.
So for all of you who think that the future is lost and that every new generation is worse than the one before you, I want you to know that somewhere out there, there are kids like this one: kids who want to be different. And I want you to remember that being different is what makes a difference.
And I think we’re going to be just fine.
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