Simple conversation. Complex lessons.

RemembeRED prompt. Image source.We weren’t what you’d call friends. We walked the same halls, knew each other’s name, but little else about each other. I’m not sure how we struck up a conversation in the first place. I think we ran into each other at a baseball game where our younger siblings were playing. Neither of us had any of our respective friends to hang out with, so we gravitated toward each other. Actually, she probably approached me. I was too shy to do more than wave and smile.

I had a vague idea of the type of person I thought Maggie was. I’m sure she had ideas about me, too. Ideas based exclusively on reputation - whatever mine happened to be, I honestly couldn’t say. Hers was the reputation of being a fun girl. Popular, but not necessarily the most popular. She was friendly and had boyfriends at the ripe old age of 12, whereas I did not. Unfortunately, having boyfriends at that age sometimes meant gaining the wrong kind of reputation. 

It’s unfortunate that there was so much judgment that went on between different groups of kids. If you didn’t wear the “right“ brand of clothes (I didn’t) and hang out with the “right“ people (I didn’t), you were not in the “in crowd”. I always perceived Maggie to be part of the in crowd and not someone I could ever be friends with. I didn’t realize it then, but I suppose I had a bit of an inferiority complex. I wasn’t unhappy about my place in the grand scheme of things, but I knew I was considered an outsider.

I thought I was an outsider to Maggie until I actually had a chance to talk to her. Then I found out that we had something in common that was important to both of us. We were concerned about family members smoking. I gained a respect for Maggie that day that has stuck with me for over 20 years. At a very young age, she told her family that she was going to start smoking if they didn’t quit. I was stunned. I gasped and said, “Didn’t they get upset?”

Her reply that they didn’t get upset and that her family members who smoked had stopped was a revelation to me. I had no idea I could actually say things like that to adults and not get into trouble. I admired her courage to say how she felt.

I don’t think Maggie and I ever spoke again after that day, but I never forgot the conversation we had. I learned - for the first time in a meaningful way - that reputations don’t always accurately reflect the character of a person and what they truly care about. And, though it took me years to figure out how to do it myself, I learned that it’s even more important to stand up for what you believe in with your family and others you care about as it is to do so with people you don’t know.