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Social issues: I'm Not Bad, Just Different

Updated on March 19, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She writes about nature, social justice, and Native America.

I’m not like you. We don’t come from the same place and our lives have not followed the same path. You were born on one side of the tracks and me, on the other. You had a room of your own. I shared mine with three brothers. You had a Mom and a Dad. My Dad left when I was four. We haven’t seen him since.


Mom works two jobs. When I see her, she is tired and hungry. She eats standing up and then goes to bed. I miss the days when she had dinner on the table when Dad came home. Things have been hard since he left. Now, I am the man of the house and I’m not good at it. I don’t know how to fix things like Dad did.

Friends

You laughed at me today, when you saw my socks with my toes sticking through the holes. I didn’t mean for you to see them. I’m usually more careful than that. It hurt that you laughed but I couldn’t let you see the hurt; you would think I’m weak. You would never understand.

You have so many friends. I watch them as they file by your locker cracking jokes or inviting you to go somewhere after school. How do you choose between them all? When I’m alone at night I pretend that they have invited me too. I look through my clothes to see what I might wear. It doesn’t take long though. I only have three pairs of jeans and they all have holes in them. My sneakers are falling apart on the inside. That’s what is wearing the holes in my socks. Well, that and age. Mom bought them from the thrift store and they were already thin in the toes. That’s when I realize that even if I had friends, I don’t have the right clothes to wear if they invited me to their house.

Disability

Mrs. Wright kept me after class today for missing so many questions on my math test. Maybe you didn’t notice with all the girls that were talking to you. I took longer than usual to put things in my backpack so no one would notice I was staying after class. Mrs. Wright says I need a tutor but Mom doesn’t have the money. It’s not my fault that I don’t get math. The doctor at the clinic said it was because I was born too early and didn’t get enough oxygen. He says my brain was damaged. I look in the mirror and I don’t look retarded. Maybe that’s why you don’t get it and treat me like I’m just not trying.

Mrs. Wright says that if I don’t get a tutor, she’ll have to put me in the special education class. That sure won’t help me make friends. Everyone will know I’m stupid then. I told her I would try harder but I don’t know how I can. I work so hard now that I fall asleep with my head in the book most nights. You make it look so easy and that makes me feel even worse.

Boredom

Gosh I wish I could hang around after school and listen to your stories. On my way out the other day I heard you talking about going to the movies. I wonder what that’s like. I’ve seen the trailers on the TV but I can’t imagine sitting in front of that big screen watching those superheroes fighting the bad guys. We have a few movies at home but Mom picked them up at a discount and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. They’re old anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Who cares. Even my little brother doesn’t want to see them anymore and he’s only seven.

Responsibility

Mom came home early tonight and said they are changing her shift again. She said my brothers and I would have to stay alone all night while she works the midnight shift. I hate it. Our neighborhood isn’t safe and my little brothers get scared when they hear the gunshots. They cry and wake me up and then I’m scared too. But I can’t let them see it. Mom says I have to be brave. She says I’m the man of the house and she is counting on me to take care of my brothers. I don’t think she remembers that I’m only fourteen. Maybe that’s because we quit celebrating birthdays because we didn’t have the money. I heard you tell Jason that your Mom got you four tickets to the Chris Brown concert. That’s so cool. I wish we were friends. Maybe you would ask me to go.

Well, we both know that’s not going to happen. We’ll never be friends because you think I’m a retarded freak. The way you look and laugh at me, I’m starting to think so too. Isn’t it enough that you’ve made me hate myself? Do you really have to hate me too?

Anger

I’m just different than you. I’m not dirty. My clothes may not be as nice as yours but they’re clean. Mom washes them every week. Even when there’s no money for the washing machine downstairs, she washes them by hand. She tries really hard to help me fit in but you won’t even give me a chance. You won’t even speak to me. You just laugh.

It’s starting to piss me off. Mom would slap me for talking like that but I can’t help it. I want to be normal. I want to have friends and do things with them after school. Why can’t everyone see that I just want to belong to the gang? Is that so wrong?

Ask my little brother how tough I am? I hit him the other day when he told me I looked gay. He’s still got the bruise and backs away when I come close. I’m tired of all this crap. Doesn’t anyone get it? Does anyone care?

I guess not because here I am, still alone; still wishing I was one of you. All I want is for someone to notice how hard I’m trying and that I could be fun too. But no, you don’t have the time and it would embarrass you to be seen with me. I get it. One of these days you’re going to pay. I’ve had about all I can take in the fourteen years. My Dad left. Mom works all the time and I’m the one taking care of the kids she had with those other two guys. She’s too tired to even say thank you anymore. And the kids, well, they’re a pain in my butt too. I wish they were gone. I wish you were all gone. I’m alone anyway so what difference would it make? Would you even notice if I was gone?

I’ll find a way out of this mess. I’m not going to do it anymore. To hell with all of you. I didn’t ask for this and maybe it’s just time for all of you to pay for treating me like this. That might make me feel better…

It's Up To Each Of Us

Is this a conversation that is taking place in your neighborhood? Is it the kid next door or the one down the street? Have you noticed them? Have you seen their pain? Are they crying out for help but finding no one there? Isn't there room in your heart for one more?

We can make a difference in these young lives if we reach out before it’s too late. We have to get there before they self-destruct. We have to reach out before they hurt themselves or, someone else. These kids are powder-kegs waiting to explode. They are our responsibility as a society. They are our future. Will we get there in time?

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

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  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sami, again you have added depth to another sad conversation. You are going to do well and be a strong advocate when you complete your education. The children will be lucky to have you. Thank you so much for reading and sharing.

  • Sami Hanson profile image

    Sami 3 years ago from Kansas

    Stories like these are why I am a psychology major as well as pre-law. My goal is to advocate for kids who suffer child maltreatment, psychological disorders, and bullying. People do not seem to understand the importance of inclusion and acceptance. It is important that a child feel loved, it is important that a child feel supported, welcomed, and belonging. Child maltreatment (whether intentional or unintentional) can have a profound effect on development, especially cognitive development, and there are many psychological disorders that children are predisposed to.

    Another beautiful hub!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi junko,it's been a long time since you visited. Welcome back. I thought of those children too as I wrote ths one. We have to change hopeless to hopeful in this world.

  • junko profile image

    junko 4 years ago

    When I read this I thought of those very young children that shot and killed an infant and wounded the mother. I agree with billybuc's read on this hub. Their are millions of unloved unhuged fatherless, children without hope.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Leslie, as usual, you got it. I think about the underdog thingie too and I don't know the answer. I'm certain that it helps one to understand and feel compassion but then, I remember being an empath long before I ever experienced being an underdog. So, I don't know.

    I don't know who this boy in this piece is but his voice came through so clearly when I started to write. Like you, I fear he will become a stastic; another sad ending to a story that didn't have to end sadly. Spanking worked when I grew up and no one died from it. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy duddy, a lot of the old ways worked a lot better than this mess we're creating now.

  • ImKarn23 profile image

    Karen Silverman 4 years ago

    Absolutely perfectly told perspective, Linda - Sooo raw, honest, sad, and - as you say - happening everywhere, everyday - even as we speak..

    we have raised generations of narcissists that seem to have 'devolved' past compassion and simple kindness..

    Do you think that one needs to first BE an underdog to be able to empathize WITH the underdog? I wonder about that often - the 'what came first...thingie..'..

    This boy will either wind up hanging in a closet for his parents to find - or finding a gun and taking a few out with him..

    so....what else is new - it's becoming the new 'normal' - is it not..

    i predicted this when it became 'against the law' to spank our own children..

    NOW - they're spanking us...

    haha...DUCK! sigh..

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi teaches12345. I don't envy teachers today and can only imagine how hard it must be to see these kids with so many challenges and have one hand tied behind your back due to budgets, staff shortages, etc. I do think we can all make a difference tough just by being observant and extending small kindnesses where we can. Thanks for your visit and for caring.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

    My heart is touched by your words. I see these kids at school and they seem like they are ok, but in reality, they are scared and lonely. God bless you for bringing out this truth, we must work with children when the opportunity presents itself.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, this one wrote itself so I know that somewhere in the world a child wanted to be heard. They are everywhere aren't they? So many just want to belong, to be noticed, to fit in. You're right, our society is stealing their childhood right out from under their feet.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Wow, Linda, this is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, too many children feel just as this young man. It's sad that so many children don't feel as if they belong. And this poor kid hasn't even had the chance to be a kid - he has to be the grown-up.

    This is very touching and certainly makes you think.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Motown2Chitown - BLESS YOU for giving that child a loving home. When I read your comment, I thought no, you've got it wrong. I didn't climb inside her head. It was the other way around. Honestly, I was the vehicle for this story. The words belonged to a child somewhere who was screaming to be heard. I cannot take any credit for writing this one. I sat down and the keyboard and that voice, the voice of that child, came through. I simply typed what I heard. Thank God it is being read and heard and if even one child is spared this life, then that child's life was not in vain. Thanks so much for leaving the comment. It really means a lot to me.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Gypsy. Thanks for the visit and sharing. Sadly, these kids are in every city, bi or small. It's past time for their voices and stories to be heard.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Kathleen, wow, what a compliment. Thank you so much. I hope it gets a lot of attention too because as it was being written, I "was" that little boy. In fact, this is one of those pieces that wrote itself. I really can take no credit for it. The voice was the voice of the child. Thank you Kathleen!

  • profile image

    Motown2Chitown 4 years ago

    lrc7815, this blew me away. I have this child in my home - his female counterpart, actually. She's the same age and has lived through the same (and sometimes worse) circumstances. When I read this, all I could think was how grateful I am to have her in my home as my ward...it began when her mother became my friend but I watched as her mother's self-destructive behavior destroyed everyone else around her. SUCH a long story, but I'm convinced you climbed inside her head when you wrote this.

    Thank you. I am here to assure people that, sadly, there are children who live this way. Reach out to them when you can. Sometimes no one ever does and they never learn that they deserve a proper home and proper love.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

    What an amazing and touching story. There are millions of these stories especially in big cities and my heart goes out to kids like this. Passing this on.

  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Painfully powerful. This should be republished where it can reach the largest audience. I hope it gets a lot of attention her on HP. Sharing!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi SidKemp! How right you are. The numbers are staggering and dysfunction seems to be the norm these days in families. Thank you for the visit and adding even more depth to the discussion.

  • SidKemp profile image

    Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

    Sadly, there are more children like the "I" in this article than like the "you." I know scarcely one happy family with two parents. Where there are two parents, they are often taking care of ill grandparents. Or there is drug abuse, alcoholism, or child abuse. And 90% of all families are deep in debt and heading for bankruptcy.

    May we all learn to take care of ourselves and each other.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    MH, thank you so much! This one turned out quite different than what I had planned and I am happy with it. I felt this kid's pain as I wrote it and so I just let his voice tell me the story. I don't know why some turn out like Pat and others succeed (like yourself) but we need to look closer and figure it out.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

    You (again) did an awesome job, But, I feel, only scratched the surface. Your opening statement says it all. And it said worlds. When I was young a bunch of us "problem" kids hung out at Mrs. Coombs', who took care of us. We were different. Manny grew up to be a doctor. Pat was killed as a drug dealer.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Barbara. I can't apologize for this one making you sad. It should make us all sad that there are kids growing up today who feel so rejected and invisible. Children just want to be loved and to feel safe and that isn't asking too much, is it? Thank you for the visit though.

  • Barbara Kay profile image

    Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

    This made me feel sad. Too bad in some ways the world isn't different.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, my kindred spirit, you are so right about the numbers. These invisible children deserve so much more than we are providing. They need hope just as much as they need social services and better parenting. That's what we're here for though, isn't it? Hugs!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Sallybea. hank you for the compliment and for stopping by. The future for this generation of kids is much more troublesome than the last and if this trend continues, we will all pay a price.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Kathryn. Thank you for your heartfelt comment and for thinking this one worthy of sharing. I think maybe we all need a gentle reminder that kids can't help the circumstances they are born into. They are the real victims in this society where we measure success by the price of our clothes or the cost of our entertainment.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    There are millions of them, and with each cut in social services we get closer to another powder keg exploding. I hear your message loud and clear, Kindred. Great job!

  • sallybea profile image

    Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

    A very powerful piece of writing. You are so right. Someone has to start listening soon or it will be too late to save a generation of young people.

  • Kathryn Stratford profile image

    Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

    Wow, that was touching. I can imagine kids having lives like that, and thinking that way. Sometimes it is so hard to be a kid, but especially when you're an "outcast", or have people pick on you, or else just not pay any attention.

    Well done. It would certainly make me look around more closely at the people around me, and be more understanding and perceptive.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I am sharing it with others.