The following comment posted on Facebook has been on my mind almost constantly for the last few weeks:
“…high school is miserable, especially in the Bible Belt. But all those kids making fun of you? After they graduate, they’re going to spend the rest of their lives living within five miles of your town, get fat, get a job at a dollar store, squeeze out a dozen kids, gradually forget how to read, and have a terrible life. You’re going to move away, go to college somewhere awesome, travel the world, make interesting friends and do what you dream of doing. I guarantee it.”
I went to high school, and I know that it is no picnic. I understand the sentiment and rational when trying to persuade a picked on teenager that all will, one day, be ok. However, so much of this statement speaks to the fundamental problems in our culture. And so, a rebuttal:
Dear high school student,
1. No one is better than anyone else. The kid picking on you is not better than you now, and will not be better than you later. Despite the direction life leads you, you will never be better than said bully. It sucks, but it’s the truth. Deal with it, and stop comparing yourself to others. Be you, do what you have to do, stop judging.
2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in the same town your whole life. Being connected to something or someone is not a bad thing. If you love NYC, and you grew up in NYC, it is ok to stay in NYC. If you grew up in Podunk, USA, it is ok to stay in Podunk, USA. If you choose to be somewhere, you have just as much opportunity to make someone else feel special and wonderful, and to feel special and wonderful yourself, as you would anywhere else.
3. YOUR JOB SHOULD NOT DEFINE WHO YOU ARE! Life hands everyone something different. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and your family, and to do the best you can at the job you obtain. Do not think that your job is “better” because of the pay or status. If we didn’t have someone to do the unskilled, hard labor, little pay jobs, and to do them well, we would not have many of our basic needs met. Having a job is your blessing, doing your job well is your right, and using your job to help others is your responsibility.
4. There is nothing wrong with having a dozen kids. If you want children, have them. And be grateful that God gave them to you, because there are millions of people out there who wish they could have children and can’t. There is nothing wrong with not having children. Everyone’s life is different, everyone wants something different. Don’t look sideways at the person because of their children or lack thereof.
5. Going to college is a privilege, and one many people take for granted. Only 11% of people actually graduate from college in the United States. This does not make that 11% superior. What it means is that anyone who goes to college has a responsibility to use the knowledge they obtain to make the world a better place. LEARN ALL YOU CAN IF YOU GET TO GO, but realize that the best education is experience, and sometimes, no matter how many degrees you have, you may not be able to fix your car or build your own house or grow your own garden. You are probably not good at everything, so appreciate those who are good at what they do.
6. Traveling the world is an amazing thing, but it is not everyone’s fantasy to go somewhere else, and it is not necessarily everyone’s dream to spend days, weeks, months, or years away from the places and people they love. Don’t set standards for others, and don’t assume that anyone wants the same things that you want.
7. You can do anything you put your mind to….but don’t be afraid to change your mind if that’s the way life leads you. Your dreams now may be different than your dreams in ten years, five years, or even one year. If you believe that you can do anything you want, then believe you can want anything you do.
In the end, we will all die. We are given a few short years in eternity to spend on Earth, and we make of it what we can. But in the end, it will not matter what car you have, what job you did, where you lived, how much money you made, or the places you have seen. In the end it matters what you shared. When the end comes, people will be happy to have had you in their lives, or they will not. They won’t care if you went to college, or worked in LA, or traveled to Africa, or accomplished all your dreams. And you won’t either. You will be happy that you had someone to share things with: a neighbor who watched the baseball game every week; a friend who shared leftover cake from the birthday party; a spouse who spent Tuesday nights on the couch beside you; a child who went to the park with you on Sundays after church; a stranger who shared a conversation on a hard day. So be kind. Make people feel welcome. Help people when you can. And realize that we all have one purpose in life, the same purpose, even if not everyone is sure of what that is. Being the kind of person you want to know will help you find that purpose. And even when things are hard, and awful, you can make of it what you want.