When My Friend Asked Me about My Most Favorite Childhood Memory, My Answer was NOT what He Expected
In my previous post, I wrote about my struggles with being different than many of the boys in my class. In elementary school, most of the boys would run off to play soccer during recess. I had absolutely no desire to do that. So, I hung around with the girls. One of my nicknames was Troy, Troy, the Loverboy, because I was always running around chasing the girls.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I just didn’t have an interest in playing soccer. It wasn’t that I was opposed to playing with the boys. In fact, I would walk to school and home again with one of my best friends, Matt every day. I remember one time that we both had this eery feeling that we were going to be kidnapped. We looked way down the road and saw a guy riding massive Harley Motorcycle and thought that he was going to be the kidnapper. We ran to my house first, because it was the closest. All the doors were locked. We panicked — hearts beating out of our chests. Terrified that we would never see our families again.
We ran up the hill to his house. Thankfully, his door was unlocked. We stumbled into the house and shoved the door closed behind us. We locked the door and turned on a daytime soap opera so that if the kidnapper tried to get into the house, they would think adults were home.
As we moved into middle school, Matt moved away. I was a shy and awkward kid. Because of my lack of interest in sports, I didn’t really know how to connect with the other boys. The story I was telling myself was that all the other boys loved sports and were amazing athletes. I was the oddball out. It didn’t motivate me to want to learn how to play sports. In fact, I pulled away even further.
As is the case for most middle schoolers, that period of time was the worst. Bully me started and then intensified. My parents were talking about getting divorced. My best friend had moved away. I felt incredibly lonely.
Internally, I wondered if the boys were right. Was I a freak? Was I a despicable human being? Truthfully, I didn’t wonder — I believed it.
There is a difference between fitting in and belonging. I soon became a people pleaser — a social chameleon depending on who I was hanging around. I was a follower, not a leader. That only amplified what I believed about myself — I was a loser. I was no good. I was not enough.
So, the other day, one of my friends called me up and asked me a question, “What is your most favorite childhood memory?”
A memory immediately popped up in my head and surprised both of us. I remembered snuggling with my grandmother and flapping the wrinkly skin hanging down from her upper arm. I loved how she smelled like Ivory soap. I loved the smoothness of her skin. Mostly, I loved her. And she loved me.
When my parents made the decision to adopt me, one of their biggest worries was that my grandparents wouldn’t accept me because I wasn’t blood. Those fears were washed away the instant my grandmother saw me for the first time. We had a special connection from that moment forward. She has passed on now, but I still feel her near me sometimes telling me how much she loves me and how special I am to her.
As surprising as that memory was, I realized just how profound a simple experience like that can make a huge difference in someone's life. For that moment, and every other moment I shared with my grandmother, I didn’t believe that there was something wrong with me. I just knew I was loved.
It is so easy for us to be bullied by our shadows of shame — to find ourselves agreeing with the lies that we are not enough. That is why it is so critically important to reflect on experiences like me and my grandmother when someone helped us feel like we matter — that we are enough.
Looking back on my life, I can see so many people who loved me. It’s hard to see it when we are caught up in painful memories. Spending even a few moments reflecting on how someone loved us can help us shift out of the pain and into peace. Maybe you had someone like that in your life? If you could let that person know how they blessed your life, what would you tell them?