April 29, 2009
By Kelly Vickers GOLD, Hartland, Wisconsin
Kelly Vickers GOLD, Hartland, Wisconsin
11 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Exclusion. Nothing anyone should experience. I will never forget when I was in a fifth grade class with the new girl. The new girl who had problems. The new girl that everyone wanted to pick on. The new girl who just wanted to be accepted, but wasn’t.

I went to Hartland South, and then went to North Shore Middle School, which combined with Hartland North, the other elementary school. Erin came to Hartland South from Hartland North, not moving far away. Nothing changed about the elementary schools, accept the people that attended them. New faces. New friendships. A new beginning.

The first week wasn’t her best. Erin had problems. That was easy to tell. She was claustrophobic, hard to talk to, always fought back, and didn’t want to be looked at. Everyone in Ms. Werner’s class, including me, picked on her. It wasn’t fair. She didn’t do anything wrong to any of us to be treated the way she was. It was easy to tell she didn’t enjoy school with us.

Then the day came that changed my outlook on people. Whether they had problems, were perfect, had the most money in all of Hartland, or didn’t have any friends, I wasn’t better than anyone else. I’m not perfect, I didn’t understand why I was treating people the way I was. As if I were superior over them.
It was the day my Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Huber, came into our classroom. Ms. Werner and Mrs. Huber had other plans for Erin to be out of that class that day, and when we looked around and didn’t see Erin in sight, we knew what was ahead wasn’t good. Mrs. Huber explained to us that even though we don’t have social problems, we shouldn’t exclude people just because we were able to have friends. Kids had been taping “kick me” signs on Erin’s back, and she walked around with them on her back, not noticing that what was on her back was merely a way of excluding her. What Mrs. Huber told our class had my teacher, Ms. Werner in the back of the room, trying to quietly wipe the tears from her eyes.
After we had that talk, my best friend, Lindsey and I decided we would include Erin. Just because she had problems didn’t mean that she couldn’t have friends. It didn’t mean she couldn’t be respected. And it especially didn’t mean she couldn’t have fun. During recess, Lindsey and I decided we’d play what Erin wanted to play, no matter how different it was. We wanted to make a change in her life. We didn’t want to be like everyone else. Even if we were known as losers for allowing Erin to have friends, we wouldn’t let it affect our reputation. At that point, reputation didn’t matter. Doing the right thing is what mattered, and it paid off in the long run.
Lindsey and I not only gained respect from our teachers and Erin, but we also gained respect from our peers. After a while, they realized how their actions had taken a toll on Erin, and they finally understood we truly are the same. Whatever problems people have or don’t have, that doesn’t mean they should go on with life without anyone by their side. Everyone needs a friend, and everyone deserves a friend. We’ve all got our junk, and just because it may not be obvious, doesn’t mean that treating people poorly will make you a better person.
You’ll be the one wishing you had friends.

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