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Really Seeing
 

His nose was all smooshed looking, like maybe his mom had dropped him when he was a baby.  His ears were two - maybe even two and a half - sizes too big for his head.  And his eyes!  His eyes bulged like they were ready to pop right out of their sockets.  His clothes were nice, Tim had to admit.  But he was still the homeliest kid he’d ever seen.

So why was the new kid leaning on Jennifer Lawrence’s locker like they were best friends or something?  She was a cheerleader and one of the coolest girls in school.  And why was she smiling at him instead of twisting her nose all funny like she did when she looked at Tim?  “Strange,” he thought. “Really strange.”

By lunchtime, Tim had forgotten about the new kid.  He sat down at his usual table - in the corner, all alone.  Tim was a loner. He wasn’t as ugly as the new kid - just a little on the heavy side and kind of nerdy.  Nobody talked to Tim much, but he was used to it.  He had adjusted.

About halfway through his peanut butter and ketchup sandwich (he put ketchup on everything), Tim looked up and saw that kid again.  He was holding his lunch tray and standing over Jennifer, grinning like he’d just aced a math test.  And she was grinning, too.  Then she moved over and made room on the bench next to her.  “Strange.  Really strange.”

But even stranger was what the new kid did.  Tim would have plunked into that seat so fast, his lunch bag would have been left behind, just hanging in the air.  But not this new kid.  He shook his head, looked around and walked straight to Tim’s table.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Just like that. “Mind if I join you?  Like the entire eighth grade was fighting to sit at my table or something,” Tim thought.

“Sure,” said Tim.  “I mean no.  I don’t mind.”

So the kid sat down.  And he came back, day after day, until they were friends.  Real friends.
Tim had never had a real friend before, but Jeff - that was his name - invited Tim to his house, on trips with his family and even hiking.  Right - Tim hiking!

Funny thing was...one day Tim realized he wasn’t so heavy anymore.  “All that hiking, I guess,” thought Tim.  And kids were talking to him, nodding to him in the hallways, and even asking him questions about assignments and things.  And Tim was talking back to them.  He wasn’t a loner anymore.
One day, when Jeff sat down at the table, Tim had to ask him.  “Why did you sit with me that first day?  Didn’t Jen ask you to sit with her?”

“Sure, she asked.  But she didn’t need me.”

“Need you?”

“You did.”

“I did?”

Tim hoped nobody was listening. “This was really a dumb conversation,” he thought.

“You were sitting all alone,” Jeff explained.  “You looked lonely and scared.”

“Scared?”

“Uh huh, scared.  I knew that look.  I used to have one, too, just like it.”

Tim couldn’t believe it.“Maybe you didn’t notice, but I’m not exactly the best-looking guy in school,” Jeff went on.  “At my old school I sat alone.  I was afraid to look up and see if anyone was laughing at me.”

“You?”  Tim knew he sounded stupid, but he couldn’t picture Jeff by himself.  He was so outgoing.

“Me.  It took a friend to help me see that I wasn’t alone because of my nose or my ears. I was alone because I never smiled or took an interest in other people.  I was so concerned about myself that I never paid attention to anyone else.  That’s why I sat with you.  To let you know someone cared.  Jennifer already knew.”

“Oh, she knows, all right,” Tim said as he watched two guys fighting to sit near her.  Tim and Jeff both laughed.

“It felt good to laugh and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately,” realized Tim.

Then Tim looked at Jeff.  Really looked.  “He isn’t so bad looking,” thought Tim.  “Oh, not handsome or anything like that.  But he isn’t homely.  Jeff is my friend.”  That’s when Tim realized that he was seeing Jeff for the first time.  Months earlier all he had seen was a funny-looking nose and “Dumbo” ears.  Now he was seeing Jeff, ‘really’ seeing him.
 

by Marie P. McDougal
from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul
Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen,
Patty Hansen, and Irene Dunlap
 
 

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