Thursday, October 20, 2011

Validate a child today.

My comment on  the article at the Advocate.com, "Op-ed: Our Role in Stopping a Suicide Crisis." 
I worked in the theatre arts program with high school students for many years. It constantly amazes me when I meet an old student the things they remember me saying. I don't remember telling that kid I cared, but somehow just by saying, "Hey John (not real name,) glad you were here today. Good job," I had changed that child's life. That day was a bad day for John. I had no knowledge of how bad a day it really was, but because I smiled and said I was glad he was there, his day changed. John was one of many who have come to me to tell me how much they appreciated being cared about. Those kids have no idea how much they enriched my life. I owe them all a big hug. I am a better person for having known, and yes, grown with the next generation. They give me great hope for the future. John went on to do good things. Who knows if my smile and recognition of his existence made a difference in reality, but it made a huge difference to John. He remembered it. Take the time to smile and validate a young person today. Make eye contact with the kid at the drive-thru, wave to a neighbors kid, and if you're lucky, you'll find a kid that has a lesson to teach you. I left my teaching job to write lesbian fiction for a living. I am now able to be out and it is so freeing. I met some old students at this year's Pride Parade. I was able to introduce them to my wife of 24 years. I was able to show them that it does get better, even though all those years in public schools, I could not speak of a very important part of my life. Many people are restricted from reaching out to gay youths, for fear of losing jobs. I understand that frustration, but nothing is stopping you from validating that child by just smiling and saying, "I'm glad you were here today."

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