Role Playing, By Ethan Zucker, Grade 5

2009 Nantucket 016Five years ago, my life was very different. Five years ago, I was treated differently.  Five years ago, I was bullied because of my one finger on each hand. I have come far since that very moment.

I hid behind a tree on the playground, feeling embarrassed about my physical difference. I saw about eight or nine older kids (probably in the 4th and 5th grade), gathering around the other side of the tree whispering about my obvious abnormality. I felt blank. I felt like a mouse in a cat’s paw. I was lost, clueless, they were probably murmuring about how weird I was and how I was a poor little 1st grader with a life of pain set out for me. If they were thinking that, those students were dead wrong…

That day when my mom came home she saw me crying. She asked me why.  I told her the story about my first recess and how ashamed I felt of myself. I felt like I was the poor little 1st grader with a life full of difficulties.  Some people fear that their first day of school will be a nightmare. In my case, that came true. She called me into the living room with my siblings for some “role playing.”  My mom then asked me to pretend to be the bully and she would be me. I said nasty words about her fingers and she responded, “I don’t care what you think about me!”  We practiced for an hour, switching places between the bully, the bystander, and the victim. That day I learned how to react to people that were confused by my difference.

These days, I don’t hide my hands in my pockets. Instead, I flaunt them and I don’t mind wearing short sleeves. By following the code that my mother gave me, I have grown to be comfortable with my environment around me, I even like to show off my difference with a new t-shirt that says “Ten Fingers Are Overrated.” I even believe it is useful to have something unique about yourself- whether it is physical, about your family, something emotional etc…

My mom has a saying that I think is very important: “The Things That Make Me Different Are The Things That Make Me Me.” That phrase means that differences contribute a lot to who you are. You must learn to overcome the obstacles that your difference may have brought with it.  Everybody has some kind of difference—even if I can’t see it on other people like they can see it on me.  Even those kids behind the tree that day in 1st grade must have had some sort of difference. I just could not see it. In my case, I may have had to learn early on about how to accept myself because of my difference, but even if some believe it has been the “hard way,” I think it will be ultimately the best way.

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