Jessie Beddoe was born on February 28, 1999, and currently resides in a small town in south Mississippi. She is in the eighth grade and a member of Robotics and Beta club; she plays soccer for the local recreational league, and likes to play the Wii and sketches in her spare time. As a member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Biloxi, Mississippi, she is inspired to help other people be enlightened by the church through fictional stories about the church and the miracles God bestows upon its followers. This year, Jessie was nominated to be Holy Trinity's Youth Representative to receive the Archangel Michael Award for her involvement in church activities. Metropolitan Alexios will present Jessie her award at an awards banquet in November.
Everyone was staring at me. This was what I hated most about moving to a new school, the very first day. I shuffled nervously beside the teacher’s desk, keeping my green eyes to the floor, and fiddling with a piece of my long, dark blonde hair as the teacher began to introduce me.
“This is Anna, class. She just moved here from Arkansas, and I want all of you to make her feel welcome,” said Mr. John, my history teacher.
Afterward, I took an empty seat near the front, and we commenced our lesson about the leaders of the Alamo. My first few classes blew by pretty peacefully, all except for the fact that I was extremely lonely. That feeling also came with new schools – having to start over each and every time, with new teachers and peers. My dad worked for the Navy, so we had to move around A LOT, leaving me victim to the cruelty of mean students of new schools practically every year. I just had to suck it up and deal with it.
Alas, though, that dreaded time came, just as it always did –
Lunch – a new kid’s worst nightmare. At other schools, I sometimes had to sit alone for weeks before I could finally sit by someone I had made friends with, so it really wasn’t my favorite time of the day. I stood in line, waiting to order my lunch, and watched all the other children talk unnecessarily loudly to their friend beside them. Then, I saw them approaching me. One of the popular cliques pushed in front of everyone in line, tossing their flawlessly straight hair over their shoulders.
They stopped next to me. The girl in the front of the group, clearly the leader of the clique, said to me with a smile, “You’re the new girl, right?”
I nodded my head yes and replied, “Anna, I’m Anna.”
“Well, Anna, we were wondering if you wanted to sit with us for lunch today, since you probably have no friends yet. Oh, and I’m Nicole,” said the girl, flipping her hair over her shoulder once more. The other girls also introduced themselves.
“Nice to meet you, girls, and I would love to sit with you,” I responded, just a little uncertain. I usually didn’t like to associate with these “popular people” because they weren’t really ever true friends. Needless to say, I was grateful to have someone to sit by, and on the first day I got here, no less, so I chatted with them for the rest of the time I was in the lunch line. After we got our food, we sat down with some of the group’s other friends and they vaguely introduced me, then started to talk amongst each other. Being ignored for the time being, I looked over at the group sitting quite a few seats away from me. I noticed a girl from my class, the one with brown curls who was just as quiet as me. She was talking with another girl and a guy, smiling and laughing – the exact opposite of me.
Nicole, sitting across from me, noticed me looking over there and wrinkled her nose in their direction and said to me, “I don’t like them at all.”
“Why not? Did they do something to you?” I asked, slightly confused.
“No,” Nicole sneered, “they’re just such…..losers.”
I didn’t have a response. I was just so shocked that she would say that about a girl that looked so nice and her friends. I didn’t go to their defense, though. I knew just what that would do from past experiences at different schools. Therefore, I just silently munched my mystery-meat-surprise.
Last period of my first day, we weren’t really doing anything and our teacher let us talk quietly amongst each other. I talked to Nicole and her friends. The girl with the brown curls, Tina, just sat quietly reading a book. Nicole saw me looking again and crumpled up a piece of paper. She leaned over and whispered for me to throw it at Tina.
“Why? That’s mean,” I replied with a frown.
“So you want to hang out with that loser?” Nicole growled right in my face.
No, I would not be bullied again. I thought to myself, I had enough of that at the other schools. I shamefully say that in that moment, I let fear of being bullied take over, and I became the bully instead.
I placed the paper ball on my hand, and flicked it right at her. Luckily, with my bad aim, it didn’t hit her in the face, but in the chest instead. Nicole and the others laughed, but I just averted my eyes and felt as bad as humanly possible.
My mom picked me up from school that day, and of course asked how my day went and if I made any friends. I told her every detail…..except for the Tina part. I just didn’t want to be an outcast, but I knew that what I did was very, very wrong and mean, but what could I do about it? If I hadn’t had done it, I would have been the one with the paper ball in my lap, not Tina. Nevertheless, Nicole and her cronies made me bully Tina for a week, and I can easily say it was the worst week of my entire life, but on that last day, I finally snapped.
“You should totally trip her so she spills her lunch everywhere,” Nicole whispered in my ear with an extremely malicious snicker.
“No, Nicole, that’s going way too far. Throwing paper at her is one thing, but hurting her feelings like that goes WAY too far,” I said with a wave of my hand.
Nicole’s face took on a crimson color, and she then said in a deep, menacing voice, “So let me get this straight, you’re going to pass up a chance to humiliate the loser?”
I just stared at her defiantly.
“Well then,” she said matter-of-factly, “I’ll just have to do it myself!”
Without warning, she grabbed my full tray and slammed it right into my face. Anybody who was looking that way at the time grew as silent as a corpse. Nicole had the smuggest little look on her face, but I kept my face emotionless as I got up and left the cafeteria, just to have the entire lunch period erupt into laughter. Once I found a bathroom, I went into it and tried my best to clean the spaghetti out of my hair and off of my shirt. I left for the front office after, still keeping my cool, and called my mom to please come get me. She agreed after I told her what happened, and she drove me home while I stared stone-faced out of the window. Once I got into my room, I shut the door, locked it, and then let myself break down and just cry it all out. I prayed for God to forgive me.
That weekend, I did what I needed to do to receive God’s forgiveness and guide my heart, mind and spirit in his direction. I found out where Tina lived and rode my bike over to her house. Removing my bike helmet, I strode up to the door with little confidence, but it needed to be done. I stood next to the large oak door and rapped my fist against it a few times. A minute later, the door opened to reveal Tina’s shocked face.
“Hi Tina, can I talk to you?” I asked solemnly. She nodded tentatively and stepped outside with crossed arms.
“I just wanted to say that I am truly sorry. For everything.” I said as I looked her in the eye. I explained my story of going from school to school, never having any real friends, and just wanting to fit in. I ended the apology with, “I’m sorry for everything I put you through, it was wrong of me.” Tina stared at me and nodded, then smiled. I turned and headed back to my bike, head hung low, when I heard Tina call out to me.
I turned around, surprised, and looked at her quizzically.
“You should sit by me tomorrow at lunch, ok?” she said. “I forgive you.”
I nodded and rode away, waving and smiling the first genuine smile I’ve had since I started this school. I knew in my heart that Tina’s willingness to forgive me for bullying her meant more to me than my need to fit in.
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