Sunday, October 23, 2011


Jay's eyes shone as he talked so fast I could hardly keep up with it. "I've got the idea! I'm going to make a difference! Want to hear what I'm going to do? Do you want to? Do you want to?"

I had to chuckle a little. "Slow down some and let me unlock my door. Then you can come on in and tell me."

Jay was one of my 8th graders and well liked among the kids. He was usually quiet, but his athletic abilities and handsome, square jawed face made the girls orbit around him like he was the sun.

"You know how we've been talking about making a difference?"

I nodded. We had spent time discussing how even small things can make big differences. As a class, we had come up with a plan for each student to do one thing, large or small, that would make a difference in someone else's life.

He continued, "I thought about it all night and I've decided what I want to do."

"What is it, Jay?"

"You know how homecoming is next week? I didn't think I wanted to ask anyone to the dance. But then I started thinking about the girls. I know some of them have already had more than one guy ask them to the dance. That made me wonder about some of the other girls, the ones...maybe who won't have anyone ask them."

I was intrigued. "Go on," I encouraged him.

"I want to make a difference in a girl's life and ask her to go to the homecoming dance with me," he said as he shyly lowered his eyes. He looked back up. "Some of them don't want to go to the dance at all, and some are just going with their friends. That left Julia."

I caught my breath as I thought of Julia. She was a transfer to our school and a very intelligent girl, but she had difficulty in social situations. She wore her hair long and usually not brushed very well. It mostly hung down in her face. She had the scourge of teenager-dom, acne, and wore clothes that were often ill fitting and unmatched. She was very quiet and although different kids had to tried to include her in their lunchtime groups, she declined, preferring to sit alone and read her book.

"Are you sure, Jay? This is a big deal, you understand. Girls don't take these invitations lightly and you don't want her to think you are just messing with her."

"Oh, I am sure," he nodded emphatically. "I'm going to let her know I'd like to get to know her as a friend. I've seen some of the books she reads and they are the same type I like. I'm going to try and ask her today. I'm kind of nervous, but my dad tells me I have a lot of gumption, so I'm going to use it."

"I hope it goes well for you, Jay, " I said as the bell rang.

I did not see Jay or Julia until the next day when their class came through the door for third period and we were so busy I did not get a chance to ask Jay about it. It actually slipped my mind until the day the homecoming mums were delivered.

Julia walked into class first, wearing her large purple and gold mum. Jay walked in later wearing one of the garter belts on his arm the girls traditionally buy for the boys.

After class, Jay stopped by my desk. "So, did she accept?" I asked him.

"Yes, she did, " he said with a blush. "When I asked her, she thought I was doing it to make fun of her. I told her I liked her as a friend and I thought she was very smart. I even showed her the book I was reading because it's by the same author as the book she's reading."

I nodded. He went on, "She took her time, but she finally said she'd go with me. She got me this garter belt for my arm and I got her that mum she's wearing."

The next time I saw the two of them was that night at the homecoming dance I helped to chaperon. Julia had taken time with her hair and it was pulled back with a small rose pinned to the side of it. She was wearing a dress that most likely was her mom's and heels she wasn't quite used to, but what struck me the most was the radiant smile she had on her face. I don't think I'd ever noticed what a beautiful smile she had, probably because she didn't show it off very much.

At our middle school dances, most of the dancing is just done by girls in the middle of the dance floor, with the boys sitting it out. This was the case this homecoming night, as well. I did see Julia and Jay at a table with other kids, talking and laughing, with Julia even joining in.

When the DJ announced the last dance, the boys scrambled to grab a girl and make it to the dance floor. I hadn't noticed either Jay or Julia dancing with each other or anyone else, but this time he grabbed her hand and led her to the middle. The first strains of the slow song came on, the lights dimmed and the big mirrored ball on the ceiling sent sparkling snowflakes of light floating over the dancers.

Neither Jay nor Julia appeared to have much experience with dancing as they held each other at arm's length, watched their feet, counted as they stepped, and moved in that awkward way teenagers do. But it was evident from their comfortable way with each other and how they laughed at their missteps that it was a good time for both.

Afterwards, I went in the girls' restroom to make sure everyone was on their way out. I saw Julia looking in the mirror.

"Julia, you looked beautiful out there!"

"Thank you," she said shyly as she averted her eyes.

"Did you have fun?" I asked.

She looked up, took a deep breath, and said, "I honestly think this is the best time I've ever had in my life." She broke out in that lovely smile. "And, what's even better, I think I have a friend I'll be friends with for a long, long time."

Sometimes it just takes a little gumption.


  1. For an eight grader, Jay is very impressive. Actually, for any age he is impressive.

  2. Missed Periods: I am so proud of him. Great things are coming from that kid in the future.

  3. This is like a scene from one of those Disney teen movies, Shelly. What a wonderful world it would be if more people committed random acts of kindness like Jay did. I admit that I actually behaved much the same way at times in my life. In my senior year of high school I was approached by a couple of girls who informed me that a friend of theirs didn't have a date for the senior prom. They asked me if I'd take her. She was far from being my "type" but I agreed to do it. Years later, between marriages, I dated a very plain looking woman simply because I found out that we both liked horror movies. We became movie buddies, saw several scary films together, and enjoyed discussing them over coffee afterward. However, there is always a big risk involved in dating somebody that you don't find physically attractive. It often happens that they are not content with friendship. They want to take it to the next level and that's when you find yourself in a very awkward situation. A young woman at the office where I once worked became obsessed with a co-worker who made the mistake of showing her a little attention. She began stalking him and having loud, ugly confrontations with him in the workplace. It was a major distraction and quite frightening. To sum it up it's laudable to help a lonely social misfit to feel better about himself or herself but at the same time you might be giving them false hope for a committed, romantic relationship. When that hope is ultimately withdrawn the person could end up in worse shape than they were before when they were off in a corner reading a book.

  4. Shady: You're one of those really great guys the world truly needs more of. So much in our culture is looks based- it's nice to know there are people who can look past it.

    I agree that intentions like Jay's can be mistaken, and that was my concern here, but they seem to just be really good friends. I don't think she's holding up any illusions about where this might go, at least I hope not.

    Good, honest communication, even at that age, is the key.

    Thank you for stopping by, my good friend, Shady!

  5. Beautiful times Shelly. I think I will not feel so bad after all, if we have young men like Jay in our schools. This may have taken guts, but he did make a difference in someone's life. You must be a great teacher and such a good influence on young people. This is a time for celebration:) Hi, this is Munir over here at Focus, please keep up the good job! thanks !

  6. Munir: Thank you for the kind comments. I truly believe that we have more good kids out there than bad ones, so that's why I like to spotlight the good that I see. Have a wonderful week!

  7. That made me cry. That kid has great character. He's well on his way to becoming a fine gentleman someday. His father sounds like he needs some credit too.

    I bet it's so rewarding to see some of your hard work come to fruition. Great job Shelly!

    Planting seeds.

    I bet he does more than just this one thing to better the world.

  8. Jamie: I think he's got really great things ahead of him. I hope Julia will use this as a launching pad for great things for herself, too. She is so very smart. I do love teaching for things just like this.

    Thank you, Jamie! You always, always bring a smile to my face!

  9. That just made my heart squeeze - in a very good way. I LOVE that boy - so much class and compassion for one so young. He has the stuff, that's for sure. And Julia - this will be something she remembers the rest of her life. It doesn't take much to give someone a little confidence, and they've both won a great prize: a good friend. How lucky are you to be in on this great story! I love to hear great stories about amazing kids. And yes - kudos to Jay's parents. They've taught him just about everything that's really important in life.

  10. Karen: I love to see such good things working in someone that young. I am really, intensely hoping this will be a turning point for Julia. She has so much to offer, but has herself in such a shell most of the time.

    We still have terrific kids in this country, but the media spends most of its time on the ones who are in trouble. And yes, I agree that his parents have certainly done their part in molding a great kid.

  11. This was a heart warming story, Shelly! I am so glad Jay took the gumption to look for that girl who might not have been invited and then go ahead and invite her and have a great time with her at the dance! My daughter is a special needs person. When she was in high school, her senior year, she invited this guy to the winter dance. He was already going with someone but told her he would take her to prom. He was the student council president, athletic, popular, you name it, but a gentleman. He honored his word and took her to prom. Not only did he take her to prom, but he made the night very special for her from start to stop. It was so very touching and just such an honorable thing he did. I'm glad there are Jays and Mike Williams (the guy who took my daughter to the prom) in this world. We need more of them!

    thanks for sharing this!


  12. What a wonderful, touching story, Shelly! What a sweetheart -- and smart, insightful boy -- Jay is! I hope they do become friends for life whatever direction their romantic lives go. And I hope Julia has connected with her inner beauty in a meaningful way. A situation like that could be truly a life-changing moment.

  13. I love that story Shelly! My youngest son was pretty popular in High School, but for Senior Prom he told me he wanted to ask one of his friends he'd known since middle school. Not as a date interest but because she had never gone to Prom. He said he'd rather spend the money on his friend and give her an enjoyable memory than some random girl he'd just be asking to go. I was really pleased with his thoughtfulness and they had fun, like friends do and probably a lot more fun at Prom than some that date for years. No tension or false expectations...just friendship. I believe the young man in your story learned something at an even younger is it forward!

  14. Betty: What a lovely story about your daughter and Mike. I love how he honored his word and showed her a very good time. You are so right- this world needs more kids like Mike and Jay. Teenage years are hard enough- that kind of goodness will last a lifetime.

    Dr. Kathy: I, too, hope this will have a lasting effect on Julia. This was just last week so I haven't really been able to gauge any long lasting effects, but I don't see how it can NOT but affect her positively. It's those kind of life changing moments that can really shape someone like her.

    Sush: Your son is a true sweetheart. He and Jay have figured out at such young ages things that some folks never get in an entire lifetime. Your son's friend will never forget that night for as long as she lives. And of course, a quality young man like that has to come from quality parents! Hugs to you, too, Sush!

  15. Gumption. I didn't have much of that as an 8th grader. I was deathly afraid of girls. Sigh. Great story!

  16. So beautiful..And so touched.

    I am so glad I came to this lovely blog.

    Follow each other.

  17. Clint: I would never have had guts like that in 8th grader- and thank you!

    izdiher: Thank you so much! I am headed to your blog right now~

  18. What a lovely boy he is. :-) He's right: something like that can change a life...


  19. Pearl: I love the idea that one single act like that can change the course of a person's life. I wish I could have things like that for all of my students-

  20. I will never forget the kindness of a boy named Rocky in my high school. He came to my rescue twice. He was the most popular boy in school and yet he was humble and thoughtful I knew we could just be friends and that was alright. Julia will never forget that prom date with Jay. What a wonderful memory for her.

  21. Belle: Finding a friend like that makes us richer than if we had a million bucks. You're right- I don't think Julia will ever forget Jay.

  22. Oh my! That got me all misty. Huge lump in my throat. What a wonderful young man! He will go on a do great things in his life. There is not enough of kindness of this caliber in the world. So refreshing to read this, Shelly. You have access to the purest souls in our country.

  23. Crystal: I think we all have it in us to release major acts of kindness into the world. I'm glad Jay's learned this so young. There really are good kids out there- we just don't hear about them enough.

  24. This is a great story! I loved the excitement in that boy's decision, that spark that was allowed to shine. There have been many times in my life when I've felt an urge to do something great, then snuffed out the spark with self doubt and fear of consequences. It takes someone with a lot of charisma and kindness to pull shy girls behind books out of their self preservation. After years of that intellectual solitude and one failed marriage, I've finally found that kind of guy.

  25. kneesandpaws: I find myself in the same spot sometimes, wanting to do something that could really be great, but letting my own fears and doubts get in the way. I wish we could just use an eraser on those things and have a kindness revolution. Congratulations on finding your man! Those qualities are worth more than gold.

  26. Oh, that is wonderful! I hope my sons grow up to do something like that. Jay sounds very sweet.

  27. Kelley: That he is, and I'm sure your sons have the same sweet heart, judging by your writing. What is nurtured in love produces good things.


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