catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 18 :: 2011.10.14 — 2011.10.27


Starting over

You would think I would have hit this wall long before, having been in five different schools between first and sixth grade. But I never noticed or was hurt by the pecking order until I hit seventh grade, in the consolidated school where kids walked or were bussed in from all five of my earlier schools and some others beside that.

A bright child, school had always been a delight for me, and in every classroom, I found it easy to make friends and excel academically.  This new school was different.  No longer was I one of a dozen over-achievers in the room. The consolidated school grouped us by ability, and I was in the 7A1’s, a room full of the brightest kids in the seventh grade.  In this homeroom, there existed another pecking order, the town kids and the bus kids.

Generally speaking, the town kids already knew each other, had dads who wore white shirts to work, went shopping for school clothes in a nearby city, and went skiing or rode horses. Those of us bus kids who made it into the A1’s were generally a different lot, not quite so high up in the middle class, and it didn’t take me long to notice this distinction within the group.

Finally it happened, the summer between my junior and senior year: I was invited to join a group of town kids who rented a cottage at a local lake for a week.  We shared the cost, all had chores to do, and someone’s mom checked in on us from time to time.

One night that week, one of the many boys who came over to swim or play cards joined me and a friend as we walked around the lake. I knew his parents had been divorced; this was before it became as common as bread and butter. We spent the rest of the evening together, just talking out on the porch. Later, when I went to bed, Marsha pulled me aside, and whispered that maybe he wasn’t a nice boy.  There was some gossip about him and another girl, and did I really want to be with him?

I remember to this day saying to her, as if I had just awakened from a bad dream, “I really don’t care what other people say.  He has been only nice to me, and if we can be friends, that’s just fine. I really don’t care what other people think.”

I realized I had been walking around for five years feeling “less than” purely because my parents chose a country life for us, because my dad wore a green work shirt to his job in the local Sylvania factory, and because I rode a bus to school. I had given power away, power to make me question my self-worth.

The next year, I went back to school a different person. I no longer worried about who I would eat lunch with; there was a whole cafeteria of people I could eat with, other bus kids or kids not in the A1s. I no longer felt “less than” because I bought my school clothes mostly in the local department store — Grants then, rather like a Walmart now. Only God could determine my value, and the only shame I would carry would be the shame caused by my own choices that would dishonor God.

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