I don’t remember their names. I don’t even remember all of their faces. But, I remember their stories. Here are a few.
A boy who watched his mother die, moved to another town, and landed in a school with no friends. No one there who knew his story. Raising his siblings with his grandparents. No father. Tried football, but hated it. During a Rachel’s Challenge training, he stood in front of his peers, crying, and told them everything. Went back to his seat. Then, the football coach took the mic. Told this boy, through tears, that he was sorry he didn’t do a better job making him feel at home. Promised the whole school would step up. The rest of the day, this boy was surrounded. Hugged. Loved.
A girl teased for years for liking other girls. Tried to kill herself more than once. Hated her school. Couldn’t wait to get to college. Stood up in front of her school and promised the younger ones it would get better. Hold on. Don’t give up.
A boy who, at the beginning of the year, decided to sit with an autistic boy at the school during lunch every day. His friends asked him, “Why do you always sit alone at lunch?” “I don’t sit alone. I sit with him.” Another kid asks, “Why do you sit with the retard?” Now, he sits with them, too.
A special needs students comes to the front of the room to share with 100 of his high school peers. Talks about his parents’ divorce, how he’s always been teased, how his life only got “better” in high school because instead of being teased, he’s now completely ignored. “That’s all.” He said. The senior class president comes forward. Blond hair, blue eyes. Mr Everything. Weeping. “I was the kid that teased you the most in 8th grade. I’m so sorry man. I’m just so sorry.”
A girl comes to me after an assembly. Quiet. Shy. Nervous. “I just wanted to say thank you. I’ve always been bullied, and I have been so afraid about my little sister coming to this school. I have always known how terrible it would be for her. After today, I’m not afraid anymore. This place is different, now. So, thank you.” Lots of tears. Lots of hugs.
A boy, no more than 11, comes forward and says, “There are some homeless guys who live by my apartment. I always want to help them, but I never have any money. I have this, though, and I want to help Rachel.” Hands me his $5 lunch money.
A sweet young girl tells us how she’s been raped all her life by her uncle and cousins. In and out of foster homes. A child of the system. Multiple attempts at suicide. She’s always been sad. So sad. Today, she saw someone who understood her. Someone who made her feel like she wasn’t nothing. Someone who saw her pain. For the first time in years, she didn’t feel alone anymore.
Rachel Scott may not be with us in body, but she is looking into the eyes of students across the country and letting them know they’re not alone. They’re worth something. They’re capable of feeling loved, and showing kindness to others. These are the stories I hear every day on the road, and these kids are the reason 40 something presenters spend thousands upon thousands of collective days and nights away from their own families every year. Because somebody has to tell these kids about Rachel. Somebody has to give them a reason to come back to school tomorrow, and with a purpose.
This is my job, and I can’t believe I get to do it.