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On the first day of sixth grade, I
sat in my quiet homeroom class and observed all the
people who I would eventually befriend and possibly
graduate with. I glanced around the room and noticed
that the majority of the middle class kids were dressed
in their nicest first day of school outfits.
glance stopped on a shy-looking girl in the back of the
room. She wore a stained, yellow plaid shirt with a pair
of frayed jeans that had obviously had several owners
before her. Her hair was unusually short and unwashed.
She wore dress shoes that were once white, and frilly
pink socks that had lost their frill with too many
wearings. I caught myself thinking, “That’s disgusting.
Doesn’t she know what a bathtub is?” As I looked around,
I figured others were probably thinking the same
The teacher began checking the
attendance, each person casually lifting his or her hand
as names were called in turn.
the teacher asked, following the roll with her finger.
Silence. “Um, Terri Jackson?”
Finally we heard a
meek answer from the back of the room, followed by the
sound of ripping cloth. We all shifted in our seats to
see what had happened.
“Scary Terri ripped the
armpit of her shirt!” one boy joked.
“Eww, I bet
it’s a hundred years old!” another girl commented. One
comment after another brought a roar of
I was probably laughing the loudest.
Sadly, making Terri feel insecure made me feel secure
and confident. It was a good break from the awkward
silence and uncomfortable first day
Terri Jackson was the joke of the whole
sixth grade that year. If we had nothing to talk about,
Terri’s trip through the lunchroom was an entertaining
conversation starter. Her grandma-looking dress, missing
front tooth and stained gym clothes kept us mocking and
imitating her for hours.
At my twelfth birthday
party, ten giggly, gossipy girls were playing Truth or
Dare, a favorite party game. We had just finished a
Terri Jackson discussion. It was my turn at the game.
“Umm . . . Sydney! Truth or Dare?” one of my
“How about a dare? Bring it on.
I’ll do anything.” Oh, if only I’d known what she was
about to say.
“Okay, I dare you to invite Terri
Jackson over to your house next Friday for two whole
“Two whole hours?! Please ask something
else, please!” I begged. “How could anybody do that?”
But my question was drowned out by a sea of giggly girls
slapping their hands over their mouths and rolling on
the floor, trying to contain their laughter.
next day, I cautiously walked up to Terri as if her body
odor was going to make me fall over dead. My friends
huddled and watched from a corner to see if I would
follow through with the brave dare.
I managed to
choke out, “Hey Scary—I mean Terri—you want to come over
for two hours Friday?” I didn’t see her face light up
because I had turned to my friends and made a gagging
expression. When I was satisfied with their laughter of
approval, I turned back to Terri. Terri’s face was
buried in her filthy hands; she was crying. I couldn’t
stand it. Half of me felt the strongest compassion for
her, but the other half wanted to slap her for making me
look so cruel and heartless. That was exactly what I was
“What’s got you all upset? All I did was
invite you over,” I whispered, trying not to show my
She looked up and watched my eyes for
what seemed like forever. “Really?” That was all she
could say. Her seldom-heard voice almost startled
“I guess so, if you’re up to it.” My voice
sounded surprisingly sincere. I’d never seen her flash
her toothless smile so brightly. The rest of the day I
had a good feeling, and I was not dreading the two hour
visit as I had before. I was almost looking forward to
Friday rolled around quickly. My time with
Terri passed by in a flash as the two hours slipped into
four hours, and I found myself actually enjoying her
company. We chatted about her family and her battles
with poverty. We discovered that we both played violin,
and my favorite part of the afternoon occurred when she
played the violin for me. I was amazed by how
beautifully she played.
I would love to tell you
that Terri and I became best friends and that from then
on I ignored all my other friends’ comments. But that’s
not how it happened. While I no longer participated in
the Terri bashings and even tried to defend her at
times, I didn’t want to lose everyone else’s acceptance
just to gain Terri’s.
Terri disappeared after the
sixth grade. No one is sure what happened to her. We
think that she may have transferred to a different
school because of how cruelly the kids treated her. I
still think about her sometimes and wonder what she’s
doing. I guess all I can do is hope that she is being
accepted and loved wherever she is.
I realize now
how insecure and weak I was during that sixth-grade
year. I participated in the cruel, heartless
Terri-bashing sessions because they seemed kind of funny
in a distorted way. But they were only funny because
they falsely boosted my own self-confidence; I felt
bigger by making someone else feel smaller. I know now
that true confidence is not proven by destroying
another’s self-esteem, but rather, by having the
strength to stand up for the Terri Jacksons of the
(c) 2005 from Chicken Soup for the Teen's
Do you have a favorite link you would like to
share? Email Us and let us know.
When my grandson
Billy and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the
lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting
Still, a few fireflies
followed us in.
Noticing them before I
did, Billy whispered, 'It's no use, Grandpa.
The mosquitoes are
coming after us with flashlights.'
Sunny Broccoli Pasta
light mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 oz. (1 1/2 cups)
uncooked pasta nuggets (radiatore)
8 slices bacon
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup small
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons shelled
small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; blend with
wire whisk until smooth. Refrigerate while cooking
2. Cook pasta to desired doneness as directed
on package. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool. Drain
3. Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on
paper towels. Crumble bacon.
4. In large bowl, combine cooked pasta, bacon and
all remaining salad ingredients. Pour dressing over
salad; toss gently to coat. Cover; refrigerate at least
30 minutes to blend flavors.
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