Below, is the first place winner and last essay of the three month student written, “This I Believe,” column. We are pleased to feature Audrey Austin’s “This I Believe” essay. The essays, submitted anonymously to a Friends of the Library panel, are reviewed and winners recommended. The Friends then contribute $25 to first place, $15 to second place and $10 to third place. Winners are typically photographed and their images displayed in the library.
by Audrey Austin
If that were me, I wouldn’t want it to be. It was sixth grade. People started to fill in the lunchroom and the noise grew louder and louder. People ran like the wind to the lunch line so they could be first. Their footsteps thundered inside to the cafeteria and shook the floor underneath them. They gossiped about how Jenna yelled at Stephanie for dating her ex from a week ago and how Chad wants to beat up Derek just because he can. Meanwhile, there was the one random kid who literally screamed for no reason at all and someone always laughed because they thought it was funny.
There were only six chairs at each table and we weren’t allowed to pull up any of the other chairs. So for some tables it was a matter of who got there first, if they did good for them, if they didn’t, well that’s their problem. That’s how it was; a lot of people felt like they didn’t have a place. My table didn’t have that issue; I wasn’t worried about losing my seat or just not having one. My friends gathered around the table and sat down with their squeaky styrofoam lunch trays and began to talk. I was fine until I saw someone sitting alone. He had his head down, no food and looked upset; I felt upset for him. Being all alone in a room full of people is not something that you particularly want to happen, especially in sixth grade.
Should I go move by him? Will any of my friends come with me? What will they think if I go and sit with him? I felt like I might be judged for moving. I finally asked my friends if any of them wanted to move over with me and sit with him. The reply I got was “no, you can I guess, but I’m not moving over there.” I felt bad, if I were all alone at a table in the lunchroom, I’d feel sad. I wouldn’t want to be alone; no one wants to be alone.
I got up, I grabbed my lunch box and took my water off the table. In that moment I decided that I didn’t care what my lunch table thought of me for sitting there. I was going to do what I believed was right. I didn’t need the approval of other people to decide what I was going to do. I started walking to his table. No one came with me, which I knew they wouldn’t, but It didn’t matter. I didn’t need them to come. I wanted to make someone else feel good. I sat down next to him and when he looked up his face grew with a smile and that was what mattered.
Fast forward 4 years and he is someone that I can call a good friend. I have his back and he has mine, no matter what. I feel that I can trust him and can be myself around him. That is not something that people find in someone everyday. By sitting with him at lunch one time, I have made a friend that most people can’t find even once they are an adult. Caring for his feelings and looking through his perspective has proven to be a great thing. Sometimes you cannot predict what will become of the little things.
I believe in empathy. Empathy gives a sense of direction and takes me to places I couldn’t have predicted I’d go. It leads to deep connections, it leads to courage, it leads to warmth. I got the chance to learn from new experiences, challenge my emotions and my thoughts giving me something to reflect back on.
I gained so much out of one small experience of empathy. I found strength in myself to overcome social pressure. Gained confidence in what I want to do regardless of what others think of me. I got a great friendship, I felt happiness and I felt a connection to someone on a deep level. Feeling empathy takes us away from our own self; away from only seeing from our own perspective. It makes us see what is going on around us and teaches the importance of other living beings. Empathy allows us to open our eyes to the world around us and understand it from an extent that we couldn’t see by only observing our own thoughts and behaviors. Empathy makes us wiser, kinder and it makes us stronger. Having access to that can only help us be better people now and in the long run. Empathy helps evolve us into a better version of ourselves.