I was on my way to work the other day and stopped at the crosswalk beside the middle school. Since there were a lot of kids crossing, I glanced around while I was waiting.
I noticed a group of five kids standing in a circle. There were three girls, dressed to impress, and there were two boys. The girls were pretty and stood with their hands on their hips, tossing their hair, texting on their phones, and the boys stood there awkwardly. I could tell the boys wanted to be somewhere else but were there because they liked a couple of the girls.
I could tell this was a clique. I despise cliques. I think of the sound being made when the circle clicks shut and allows no one else in.
I turned back to the crosswalk in time to see a little girl with long, brown, messy hair and glasses. She caught my eye because she was walking fast and stiff as a board. Her oversized gray sweater was obviously a hand-me-down, and the sleeves almost covered her hands, clinched into fists.
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She wore a faded T-shirt, and her jeans dragged the ground, almost covering her black tennis shoes. She had her head down as she walked past the clique of kids. She didn’t glance in their direction, but they all looked at her. One of the girls said something and the other kids smirked and chuckled.
My heart hurt for that little girl as she lowered her head even more and walked faster and stiffer.
I thought of my poor childhood and clothes. My parents only had enough money to buy us new clothes at the start of the school year. We got new shoes, one outfit, and a coat every year. The rest of the time, we wore what we had or what my parents bought at the flea market or yard sales.
I thought about the time my dad bought me a coat at a yard sale. I was 10 years old. I loved that coat. It was the color of coffee with a lot of cream. It was fuzzy, soft and warm and had two silver buttons. I was so excited to wear it to school the next day. I was smiling ear to ear, feeling proud and beautiful.
That feeling didn’t last long. As passed a clique of girls a couple of years older than me, one of the girls said, “Look, that is my old coat. She is wearing the coat my mom sold at our yard sale.”
I was so embarrassed that I thought I was going to die. I went home that day and put the coat in my closet. I never wore it again. I would see the hurt and disappointment on my dad’s face every time I walked out the door wearing my old coat. He never asked me about it. Maybe he was just too disappointed in me to bring it up, or maybe he somehow knew in his heart what had happened.
I saw that coat again years later when my mom pulled it out of a box and put it out for a yard sale. I picked it up, hugged it close and hoped that the next little girl who owned it would be stronger than I. I still cry a little when I think about it and add it to my list of regrets. I would give up everything I own to wear that coat again, hug Dad, and thank him for being so wonderful.
As I drove away from the school, I wished that I could hug that little girl wearing hand-me-down clothes. I wished I could tell her that things will get better in life and that those clique girls will not always have it easy.
Life has a way of evening the score. I wanted to tell her that this is just a raisin in her cereal bowl of life. Just a small, insignificant raisin. Of course, I couldn’t hug her or tell her any of those things, but I did do the one thing I could do.
I said a prayer that God would surround her with angels, but not just any angels. I asked God to help that little girl not feel so alone In this world. I prayed he would send angels wearing hand-me-down robes and yard-sale wings.