<b>Fresh starts, bullies and best friends</b>

I wore denim shorts, the stonewash kind. My navy shirt hung loose but seemed cute with a yellow sunflower stealing most of the space on the front.

Both the shorts and the shirt were new and purchased from a store in the mall named County Seat. The store filed bankruptcy a few years after my purchase but as I walked down the hall to my first day of high school I felt like a million bucks.

There's something about a new outfit, right? It can do that.

I can't recall what I wore on the second day of my freshman year of high school, the first day of my sophomore year or even what I wore to my high school graduation as I'm sure I was just happy to be months away from a brave new world.

But there are certain days when looking back on the course of my life when I could tell you exactly what I was wearing. There are no pictures of me in this outfit from my first day of freshman year but the day was monumental, I remember it.

I didn't know many people that I was going to high school with. I'd spent my entire educational career going to the county schools and I was transitioning to the city school for high school. New outfit or not, feeling comfortable and stylish I was still incredibly nervous.

Thanks to my mom for insisting that I play every recreational summer and fall league sport that was offered, I ended knowing quite a few people at my high school and one of those fellow rec league softball players ended up as my best friend and still to this very day.

This week I've smiled a lot at the pictures parents have posted on social media of their little ones heading out to new beginnings and fresh starts. A new school year. There's nothing more exciting and then again there's nothing scarier.

Last year I remember standing outside of an elementary school taking back-to-school pictures and I nearly had a panic attack when a child who got off the bus started crying. She did not want to go inside the building. She was scared, alone and crying. I panicked, about cried myself and got a staff member to her. After some consoling she was fine.

I do recall kindergarten myself. I was thoroughly excited to go from station to station playing and learning at Mill Creek Elementary. I would have stayed all day.

On Wednesday I found myself taking back-to-school pictures again at an elementary school. No cryers this time. Thank goodness. But I did encounter lots of nervous young students.

School, much like a career, an event or even church, is filled with a diverse group of people. There are a lot of people in one place with a lot of differences including different backgrounds, beliefs, class systems and skill levels.

And all of this can be a good thing. Until someone, some bully, or even one rotten teacher doesn't know how to handle someone's differences, someone's less thans or someone's hurt.

I've seen teachers be the bully, I've watched parents start more drama than General Hospital and I've heard children use words as sharp as a knife. And at the end of the day I'm not really sure what was to gain.

With the new school year, it's a sort of new year's resolution time. It's a time to be better, to set goals and to make a commitment to be good to those around us — even the ones who are different.

I'm not a mental health tech, I'm certainly not a psychologist and I don't know how to teach inclusion, but I think it's important this new school year, for careers, for friendships and for life.

Maybe we just make an extra effort to talk to people at school, church or work. Invite someone to go somewhere who might need a friend. I know it sounds corny, but it's things that matter, things that make a difference. Sit beside someone new, send a thank you note or come up with something all your own.

A new school year, a fresh start, for all of us.

Angela Turner is a staff writer for The Times-Tribune. She can be reached at aturner@thetimestribune.com.

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