My senior year in high school was active. I was student body president, busy in activities and had a very best friend with whom I did everything…until sometime in late fall when she decided to blame me for getting grounded. She told our mutual friends that I had told her mom of some of her, well, illegal, activities and that’s when I learned I didn’t have a lot of really true friends. Anyone who truly knew me well, knew the accusations just didn’t fit my personality.
In my homeroom biology class that year, I was assigned to a group of people that I didn’t know very well, but we immediately clicked. Donna Walker was one of our team. She was a year younger, not considered “popular”, didn’t have a particular “clique”, and and we really had little in common. She was very smart and probably carried our team. She and Mark Sharp and I would talk about everything during our biology labs and one day, out of the blue, Donna Walker told me, “I think you have beautiful eyes.”
She was very matter-of-fact, as if thinking it was no big deal to pay a compliment. But this was high school, and she had just focused on the one thing that I was extremely insecure about. How could she know?
In the midst of the rumors that were going around about me, in the grief of losing my best friend and the others that decided to choose sides, Donna Walker paid me a compliment that I have remembered for thirty-plus years. She made an incredible impact on me, realizing that just a few kind words can make a difference.
This week, our area was rocked by the suicide of a young lady with whom many of us were acquainted. As I have read the cruel, faceless words that some of her fellow students wrote to her, I cannot help but feel the same painful emotions of rumor, cruelty and bullying that I remembered from high school. Today, however, with the advent of social media, that cruelty comes in more forms, and because the bullies can hide behind their smartphones and computers, their words seem to become more heartless.
I’m smart enough to know that my writing this today won’t reach the ones that need to hear it, but I’d suggest that anyone who knows a middle or high school student tell them the damage their words can do. Encourage them to be a Donna Walker, whose words and kindness can make a more positive impact and one that will last forever.
For those people who choose cruel words instead, you will never have the privilege of enjoying a Donna Walker moment and will have to live with the heartache of knowing that a few nice words could have made a difference in the life of another.
Someday I will find Donna Walker and let her know she made me smile.