The boy is eight. Having been held back a year, he is just beginning second grade. After living those first eight years in one place, he’s moved, with his family, to a new house. And this means a new school, new teachers, new friends.
Like a suit of well-worn clothes, he wears a pinched, serious expression on his face. He is quiet, would rather go unnoticed, stay out of the way.
He has learned to stay out of the way.
Life is easier that way. It is easier to forego trying, than to try, and subsequently fail. So this boy lives quietly in his mind. It’s comfortable, and safe, there. He couldn’t verbalize it, but if he doesn’t try, there’s no one to disappoint.
Again, life is easier that way.
But he starts second grade with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He makes a couple of friends (he’s never had many). Then one day, it happens.
The class is making ice cream. Each child must take a turn turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream machine.
On that still-warm not yet Fall day–the leaves still verdant on the trees–the children line up. The boy, red hair shining in the sun like fire, is neither first, nor last; he’s in the middle of the pack.
He doesn’t want to stand out, or draw attention to himself. So he blends in. Even at eight, he’s good at blending in.
Finally, his turn comes. He steps up, grabs ahold of the crank, gives it his all. His teacher says:
“Come on, Chad, even the girls can do better than that.”
The message of those words reinforces one he already lives:
You’re not good enough. You don’t have what it takes. Move on, let someone better do that.
How many moments like that have you had in your life? Did you have someone to help you interpret them?