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Four Chairs Down This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Why me?”

Teenagers ask themselves this question every day, wondering how life would be different if they were the head cheerleader, the star football player, or simply a person who is respected by their peers.

Sadly, this is not the case for many teenagers.

Tim always sat in the same place during lunch, four chairs down from my friends and me. He was always alone, always had the same little sandwich box, and always sat with his face angled toward the floor.

For weeks, I tried to get up the courage to talk to Tim and invite him to join our conversation, but I always found reasons not to. I made excuses like “My friends wouldn’t be nice to him” or “He’d feel uncomfortable.”

One day, a group of boys known for giving guys like Tim a hard time snuck up and stole his sandwich box. Tim got very upset and repeatedly asked them to give it back, but they just laughed. I watched angrily, but I am ashamed to say I did nothing.

Finally, a girl walked over and yelled at the boys, snatched the box from their hands, and gave it back to Tim. He immediately gathered up his things and left the cafeteria. He never came back to sit at my table, four chairs down. I still regret not talking to him, and I wonder, if I had, would things have gone differently that day in the ­cafeteria?

Tim wasn’t the only one who had a hard time at school. That year, just two days before graduation, a senior committed suicide. I vividly remember when we learned of his death. A hush fell over the school as we listened to our principal make the sad announcement over the loudspeaker. That boy must have felt so alone in the world, so unwanted, that he ­couldn’t see a happy future, even after high school. I watched as everyone in my classroom grew still and silent. I wondered if anyone else was ­thinking about Tim and that day in the cafeteria.

Bullies are easy to blame, but they’re not the whole problem.

As the saying goes, “When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” The people who don’t speak up, like me, are also a big part of the problem. We don’t stand up to bullies, because we fear having people think we’re not “cool.” We don’t want to become a target ourselves. But a bully will stop if enough people stand up.

I know from my own experience that standing up to a bully isn’t easy to do. But if we support each other against those who seek to single us out, we’ll have a better chance of helping those who sit alone, four chairs down.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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maddimercy said...
Aug. 23, 2013 at 9:06 am:
I love it!!  
 
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