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.