Ask a hundred people and you get 100 different stories about friendship.
For some people, making friends is as easy and natural as breathing. For others, it is much more difficult. They are different in some way, and either can’t or won’t fit in with the people around them.
Such people with few or no friends run the risk of leading lonely, unhappy lives. I’d like to share a story with you about such people, and how they found friends and happiness.
And in the process discovered that friendships are indeed more valuable than money.
This story is about my friends little sister, Eleanor. Eleanor is a big girl. Today, she weighs 425 pounds. Although her family didn’t find out until long after this story, she has a medical condition called insulin resistance, which means she constantly gains weight, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, for her to lose weight.
Being so fat set her apart from the other kids at school, and she quickly learned it was easier just to avoid them. For a while, she seemed doomed to spend her school years sitting on the edge of the playground reading a book while everyone else laughed and played during recess.
Then one summer during junior high, she auditioned for a summer kid’s play, ‘Finian’s Rainbow’, and won the lead role.
Eleanor is very talented. She’s very energetic, very creative, very funny, a good actor, and wow… can she sing! But being in this play meant she would be in daily contact with a bunch of strangers for six weeks, and she was very self-conscious about her weight. She was worried if the other kids would tease her, like her schoolmates did, and particularly worried about jealous actresses who had lost out the lead role to her.
But theater and acting attracts a certain type of person-a person who wishes they were someone else. The kids who auditioned for the summer play were all different in their own ways, even if it wasn’t obvious. They tended not to pick on others who were different, because they themselves were different, and all they really wanted was to be allowed to be different without fear of persecution. So most of them didn’t judge her on her weight, but on her personality and talent.
Now Eleanor is understandably very shy, but once you get to know her, she is a very sweet girl. Her fellow actors were quick to discover this. As Eleanor proceeded to hit all the high notes, nimbly dance the Irish Jig despite her weight, and make the audience both cry or roar with laughter, she earned her fellow actors’ respect. As the cast of the play spent time together, both in the theater and outside at cast parties, Eleanor discovered that she suddenly had a large circle of friends.
Of course, the play eventually ended. So you might think there would be no more stories about friendship for Eleanor, except sad stories.
But you’d be wrong.
The social structure that had brought Eleanor and her friends together had vanished. But Eleanor would not be discouraged so easily, not now that she had finally made a circle of friends for the first time in her life.
So she borrowed a video camera and got her friends together to make an amateur movie. They made several amateur movies together all though high school and into college, and had a blast doing it.
That summer play was over fifteen years ago, and Eleanor’s friends have graduated, married, and scattered to the four winds. But many of the friends Eleanor made that summer are still her good friends today, thanks largely to the modern marvel of email and the internet.
They understood the importance of friendship, they realized you can’t judge a book by its cover, they wanted the benefits of friendship, so they opened their hearts to one another.
The moral of this story is that anyone can make friends under the right circumstances. You just need to find a group to fit in with. If you or your children are different in some way, this may be more difficult, but never impossible. First, find something you or your child is good at. Then, find a group of people or children doing the same thing. This could be anything-drawing, singing, working on cars, playing with computers… even being fans of a book, TV show, or movie. And if you can’t find a group like this, invent one, like Eleanor did with her movies.
You or your child will meet people with similar interests, and thus conversation will easy, natural, and fun. Members of the group will judge you by your knowledge and skill in their shared hobby or interest, and hopefully find something to respect in you or your child. Acquaintances made this way can quickly bloom, grow deep, and become lifelong friendships, just as with Eleanor and the cast of ‘Finian’s Rainbow’.
Visit my resource Author Box which follows for more empowering strategies and stories about friendship to give your children the needed skills for lifelong friendships.
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