By Linda Wilkins
We’ve all done it. It’s easy. We just walk by. We look away. We ignore them.
Who do I mean when I say “them?” I mean everyone – all of those people we avoid or simply don’t talk to.
Here is my question: Why?
I’m not saying I haven’t avoided people before, because I have. I do every day.
My guess is you do too.
You might not realize it, but the guy next to you needs someone to talk to. He won’t go to a professor or anyone else. It will take you talking to him for him to let all of his pent-up emotions out. That girl across the room? Do you know her situation? She needs a friend. She might need you.
I understand how awkward it can be just walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, I’m here. You don’t know me, but tell me your life story.” Chances are if you do that, you’ll get some pretty weird looks and they’ll just walk away.
So just be normal when you talk to people. Be yourself. You might not click with everyone, but you might just be the difference in someone’s life.
A couple of weekends ago, I led a group at a Disciple Now retreat in Clifton. The entire retreat was a blast. I learned so much from my group, and I hope they learned something from me. My partner and I went into the weekend prepared for anything. Or so I thought.
I wasn’t prepared for the tough lesson my group would teach me. My lesson hit me hard in the form of 16 sixth-grade girls.
It was part of the curriculum to have a “Take 5” talk with each girl individually. We had guidelines for asking questions and covering all topics from family to school to church. Personally, I loved the time with those girls to get to know their personalities better. I have always been fascinated by what makes other people tick.
By the last student I talked to, I was ready to shut myself in a room and cry. My sister tells me I cry too easily, but not this time. I had prepared myself for any situation to give advice and to encourage those girls. Each of those girls was special in her own way, and I rejoiced in that.
But there was something nearly all of them said that really broke my heart and made me hug someone.
When I asked about school, every single one of those girls mentioned something about seeing people get bullied every day. When I asked why those kids got bullied, they all said because all of the kids who got bullied were different.
I decided to pursue the word “different” a little further with the girls. What made these particular people different? I got all kinds of answers from “they aren’t popular” to “they don’t look like us” to “they don’t act like us.”
Their answers immediately put my own definition of “different” into perspective.
People are different. That’s how society functions. If we were all the same, there would be no variety in music, literature, beliefs or style.
Society thrives on our differences. So why do we easily avoid particular people who are different from us?
Society can tolerate differences in music and literature, etc., because we can work with variety. For some reason, however, it is hard for some of us to extend that variety to other people.
Bullying is a strong word; we aren’t necessarily being bullies by avoiding people or simply not talking to people. “Ignore” better suits our situation.
What would it take for us to say hey to someone new, someone different? It’s more than just a brief action we can take.
This is a call to do something many other people still won’t do. Take a moment and get to know someone else. It’s not hard. It just takes effort.
I’m in. Are you?
Linda Wilkins is a freshman journalism major from Tyrone, Ga., and is a staff writer for the Lariat.