_____ is not a stereotypical seventh grade boy. He enjoys browsing the Prom Dress section in Macy’s, knitting winter scarves, and taking a daily trip to Starbuck’s for a Venti Caramel Macchiato. I have had the privilege of spending every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon with _____this year as his babysitter, Algebra tutor, and eventually as his friend. The relationship_____and I have created has made a profound impact on his sense of self-worth and confidence, and has reinforced for me the power of a good friend.
I was thrilled when _____’s mom contacted me about being his Algebra tutor. I am a bit of a “math-geek” and regularly tutored younger students outside of school. However, this case was a bit different because in addition to helping him with math, she asked me to stay over until 6:00 pm each day. “He doesn’t have many friends,” she explained, “and we don’t like him always being home alone.” I agreed, and went to their house the first day with an open mind. When we met, _____ seemed to take an immediate liking to me. We had many similar interests such as watching Food Network and braiding hair. We established a routine of walking the dog, working on his math homework, and trying out new recipes.
I soon learned, however, that _____’s outgoing and friendly personality was a well-crafted facade. His more feminist interests left him isolated at school. Because of this, _____ struggles with severe depression and is being treated with antidepressants and weekly therapy sessions. I began to see past his front one Tuesday afternoon in December. _____ came home from school and proceeded to lock himself in the bathroom. After refusing to speak or leave the bathroom for over an hour, he opened the door for me to join him after I slid a chocolate chip cookie under the door. _____ became hysterical and described an incident he had at school that day. He had been publicly humiliated by a group of his peers in the school cafeteria for wearing “gay clothes.” _____ went on to tell me about the bullying he receives nearly every day at school, both physical and emotional.
Since this incident, I have done all that I can to be a strong support for _____. I now pick him up from school each day so that he can avoid bullies on his walk home. We now talk about any social struggles he had in school and role-play how he can respond in the future. _____ and I have also began to spend time together on the weekends attending local fashion shows, going to the movies, and testing out the massage chairs at Brookstone. With these simple efforts, I have seen a profound change in _____. Instead of hiding his emotions, _____ is very open and is able to process his feelings. He is more vocal to his family about things he finds offensive or upsetting, and even had a conversation with his father about hurtful comments he has made about the LGBT community.
I went to _____’s house the first day with the intention to help him with math. But, I feel that what I have accomplished is something much larger. _____ has been the victim of bullying for several years, and I have helped make him feel “as if [he] is actually valued,” something he has told his sister. Spending this past year with _____ has reminded me that no matter how someone appears on the outside, everyone is dealing with their own internal struggles and that sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest difference.