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May 5, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Miss Bubbly, class of ‘60!   

 Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

When I was at a restaurant the other day I couldn’t help but overhear one side of a conversation by a teenage girl. She was talking on her phone, but making no attempt to keep it private. In fact, she continued to moan and explain to someone that she was not ‘good enough’ for a circle of other kids. She said this group was popular and click’ish that she had no chance to become one of them. She nearly broke out in tears as she repeated over and over that she wasn’t worthy. She was certain that they felt the same way concerning her.

I could not help but wonder if the young lady’s hurt feelings had risen from the snobbery of that group, or if a tragic misinterpretation may be behind her troubles. In fact, it is possible that she herself was the snob. Perhaps body language sent a wrong message. Regardless of the truth, such things can be believed as true. That sets us up for depression that ultimately might result in serious consequences. Not all kids can just ‘shake it off,’ or ‘suck it up.’ Some will go underground and find ways to retaliate. School shootings have been caused just this way.

Acceptance is so critically important to young people. It is bad enough that they are undergoing physical changes, but the pressures brought on by even a slight social problem can be unnecessarily brutal to some. We are all susceptible to feelings of neglect or rejection, but it is greatly magnified in youth. Knowing this, we each have responsibility to reach out and affirm them whenever we can. The best answer isn’t naturally adopted, but can be helpful if used. Rather than shrugging and looking selfishly for ways to affirm our own self-worth, we can focus on encouraging others instead. That is the real, worthwhile goal.

I remember a certain girl from my school days who was held in the highest esteem by everyone that knew her. This was true because she was always outgoing, happy, and ready to encourage others. I reason that she must have had enough confidence in herself that she didn’t see differences in people. She had an open attitude that befriended her to everyone. She saw herself as an equal and no better, or worse than anyone else.

In some conversations that I had with her back then she denied that she was ‘popular.’ She had a genuine humility about her and demonstrated that popularity was not an important goal. Simply put, everyone was her friend or she’d make it her job to make them a friend. That notion was at the root of her character. She didn’t play favorites with others or judge herself against an artificial, or arbitrary benchmark. Rather, she had an unspoken goal to make others feel comfortable and worthwhile. Over the years she learned to draw out other people’s skills and thoughts. She learned from them with a grateful spirit, thereby deepening her bond with nearly everyone she met.   

She used these lessons to enrich her own life, as well as the lives of others. I watched her encourage her fellows even when they missed the mark. More than once she built me up when I had stumbled. She dismissed a fumble as non-consequential. She told me once that if you looked for the bad in people you’d surely find it, but that looking for the good in others yielded much better fruit.

I saw this hero rise in defense of maligned friends, but even in that she was careful to show respect to everyone involved. Even if she disagreed with someone’s position on a matter, she was careful to ‘respectively disagree’ but show sensitivity to their thinking. I saw her change the minds of others by exposing a gentle and loving trait that seemed ‘bone deep’ with her.

 You see, her outlook was an ‘OUT-look’ on life. She remained focused on others rather than herself. While she was capable of winning in whatever her endeavor, she readily accepted being second, or third, if it would help in the circumstances. She was the type of person that would slow down and help another finish the race. To her, it wasn’t about the race, but bringing happiness to her friends.

Before you suggest that she was the ‘love of my life,’ let me say that I never dated her and am married to the love of my life. Regardless, she remains one of a group of life-long friends. I know you are waiting for me to reveal this person’s name, but hang in there. I’ll address that a little later. In the meantime, many will guess that I meant this one, or another. That supports the hope that more than one person of that era fits the description. If so, how wonderful is a place where that is true!

My training in business and managing people over the years tells me that only a few will fit the happy model I have described. Most will not. The measure of people’s influence on society has a direct relationship on whether they are self-serving, or if they have a servant’s heart. There are only a few stars in life. That rings true in sports, in business, and in our social lives. Attitude is the key. The worst examples are rebellious people who blame others. That is never helpful and will not make anyone a winner, let alone popular. I recall a favorite song that admonishes us to ‘Keep on the sunny side of life. The classmate I have written about took this very theme to heart and we loved her for it.

Today, it is a ‘cause célèbre’ to stand against bullies and others who do wrong, especially to those who cannot defend themselves. We know or read about kids that run away from home, and even those who have sadly taken their own lives. A few have turned to murdering classmates because of their perceived rejection or harassment. There is little more painful in life than rejection or attacks from someone we admire. Personal rejection comes in many forms including insults, mocking, bullying, ignoring, making fun, or attacking either verbally or physically.

We all want to belong and we suffer hurt when we think we don’t. My classmate belonged wherever she went. She did what she wanted. It wasn’t arrogance, but that she had decided somewhere along the path that she was her own person. She purposed to try and do right and to care about others. It wasn’t to make friends, although that was the effect, but rather to learn and find ways to help others find happiness. In their happiness, she too, I think, found happiness.

How very wise she was, and likely still is. She was laid back because she had confidence in herself. That tells me that someone also encouraged her. The memories of her still lifts my spirit. I count myself lucky to have known her. By observation, I know that others benefitted from knowing her, too. When she exposed that bubbly personality and smiled on us, we were able to smile on others. That’s a legacy worth having.

I hope the person speaking to the little girl on the phone encouraged her and helped her discover that regardless what she or others think, she is worthy. As a lesson, we should all reach out to others that need that helping hand. We are in this together, you know. Life is short, so let’s affirm each other and “Keep on the Sunny Side, always on the sunny side.” Together, our helping with one relationship at a time, we can make this world a better place.

So, you still want to know who I have written about? Some may already know by my descriptions and others may hazard a guess. I doubt she wants that kind of recognition, but maybe she will see herself in this and be encouraged that her goals were met. I hope so, but regardless, her example will live in us all.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

         

Comments  

0 #1 Bernard Nelson 2018-05-05 19:17
WOW !!! Mike, what a powerful message. I knew a couple of folks like that when I was in high school also. Always helping others, friendly to all, liked & respected by everyone who knew them. I too am so honored to have known them and agree that the youngsters of today need a lot of this.
Again, great article and as always, "Thanks for the memories".
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