"I hate running," I could hear myself mumble as my throbbing feet hit the pavement and the air sucked any feeling of life out of my mouth. My lungs felt as though they were going to burst out of my chest, and I could feel the eyes of my classmates as one by one they passed me. I was twelve and in sixth grade, and for PE my teacher had decided that they were going to start making my class run around the school five times before doing anything else. To some, this was a joyous occasion. To others, such as myself, nothing could be worse. You see, I had always liked the idea of running, but never the act itself. I wasn't very good at it, even though I had always wanted to be (and still do). My athletic ability, or maybe lack thereof, had always been something that people used against me. And this day was no different. The mixture of embarrassment from having to run and the pain in my lungs caused by not running enough had resulted in tears beginning to stream down my cheeks. As a boy who was about a year than me ran by with two of his friends, I heard him say "Look, she's crying already." To this day I still don't know what he was trying to accomplish with this comment, and quite frankly I've given up trying to understand. All I know for sure was that this quick remark did nothing but make me cry more.
I think I was lucky that I went to the same school that my mom worked at, and seeing as I was in front of her classroom already, I simply turned to my left and walked in. I don't remember what happened next, but I don't think I will ever forget that boy's words. Something about them seared into my soul and still haven't left. The boy made it seem that not only was my crying something to be ashamed of, but that my lack of running ability was worth everyone's attention.
As a small child, I cried a lot. To be completely honest, I don't really remember what exactly it was that made me cry so much, all I know is that I did it a lot. People called me a crybaby, and I definitely gave them reason to. Even though I spent much of my childhood crying, by the age of twelve I wasn't as much. I was far happier, and nobody had mentioned my tendency to cry in a long time.
I think this was why the comment hurt so much. Whether he had been oblivious as to how much the four words hurt me, or he was just making a one-off comment, it seemed to me that my habit of crying a lot at the age of seven had followed me to the age of twelve in the minds of everyone else.
Ever since that day, I can only remember a couple times in which I have cried in public. If I can feel myself beginning to cry, I make a beeline for an empty stairwell, a school bathroom, or an field. It's almost funny, though, because in the few times I have started to cry in front of someone, they haven't called me a crybaby or called more attention to it than was necessary. I know that the boy in sixth grade was probably just immature and that I am certainly much stronger than I was five years ago, but I still don't like crying in front of other people.
The words we say can have a lasting affect on others. This experience happened five years ago, and I still don't like to cry in front of other people. I don't like to give anyone reason to make fun of me, and I don't having negative attention on me, and I'm sure most people are the same way. Everyone has something that they are insecure about, and by having someone call attention to it, that insecurity can become 100 times more paralyzing. Trust me, I have many other insecurities apart from crying and most have been mentioned directly to my face numerous times.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should treat people kindly. If you know something is insecure about something, don't mention it. I have a personal rule where if I'm going to call attention to someone, it's to compliment them. And if I know they don't like attention? I don't do it in front of a bunch of people. In general, I try really hard to be sensitive to people's emotions. Am I perfect at this and don't ever slip up? Of course not. But I do try my hardest to make sure that everything I say builds people up, instead of tearing them down.