Dan called the other day and since I hadn't heard from him in years, it brought back memories of our high school days. I remember, it was the first day back at school I was excited and anxious to mingle with the crowd again. I hurried up the walk, run up the steps, taking two at a time and yanked the door open. All my buddies stood in a huddle talking about what an awesome vacation they had. I noticed a new guy propped up against the wall.
"Hi, Jason," Danny said. "I was beginning to think you had decided the high school scene wasn't your gig."
"Who's the new guy"? I asked. "Let's mosey over and welcome him to good ole Center High."
"His names Tim something or another," Danny answered. "Everyone's calling him a jerk. He's not only fat, but he's extremely clumsy and look at the clothes he's wearing."
"What's a jerk, anyway?" I asked. He can't help it that he's fat or clumsy and what's wrong with his clothes"?
"How should I know what a what a jerk is? You're the brain at school, so you tell me." Danny snapped "What's wrong with his clothes? Just everything that's all. He's wearing bib overalls and if that's not bad enough they're not even a brand name. I bet his parents bought them at the surplus store. Look at that awful purplish red shirt he's wearing and those brogan shoes. Nobody wears those anymore."
"I don't think we should ignore him," I said determined. "You shouldn't make an issue about his clothes either."
"You know me I'm all mouth," Danny said laughing. I'm giving you some good advice, buddy. Leave well enough alone, if you start talking to the jerk you aren't going to have any friends."
I went into the classroom and slumped down in a chair. I knew it was wrong to ignore Tim, but Danny had been my best friend since we were in grade school.
We went to the cafeteria at noon and several guys started picking on Tim.
"How's things going, jerk? Mark laughed, giving Tim a shove backward. "I bet you miss your old school, don't you"?
"I sure do," Tim joked and began cutting up. "It was a great school."
I knew Tim was going along with Mark's smart remarks trying to cover up his hurt feelings.
"I still think it's wrong the way everyone is treating Tim," I whispered to Danny. "Besides, we shouldn't let other people tell us who our friends will be."
"Sure, sure," Danny snapped. "I'm not talking to the jerk and I don't want to hear anymore about it. By the way, how about going with me to my cousin, Greg's house tonight. He's got all kinds of neat things we can do. His family is rich you know."
"I'll asked Mom and Dad," I said half heartily. "I'll call you when I get home and let you know."
As I walked home from school that evening. I couldn't get my mind off the way the kids were treating Tim. I walked slowly up the walk to the house, opened the door and headed straight for the kitchen. I grabbed a cookie from the cookie jar, and poured myself a glass of milk. Mom was at the sink getting something ready for supper, but I plopped down in a chair without saying a word to her.
"What's wrong, Jason"? Mom asked. "You're never this quite unless something's wrong."
"Oh, there's this new boy at school that everyone calls a jerk. Danny just same as said he wouldn't be my friend if I talked to Tim."
"What did you tell Danny"?  Mom asked. "You know he's wrong, don't you"?
"Yeah, I know, Mom," I said. "I tried to tell Danny, but he wouldn't listen. Oh, Danny asked if I could go with him to visit his cousin tonight. I told him I'd ask and let him know."
"I suppose it'll be all right," Mom answered. "I don't know Danny's cousin, but since I know Danny's folks, I'm sure his cousin probably is a nice person."
I reached for the phone on the wall, but before I could dial the number, Mom motioned for me to wait. "Tell Danny you have to be home by ten," Mom reminded me. "It's a school night."
I dialed the number and Danny got it on the first ring. "Danny, Mom says I can go," I said, "but I'll have to be home by ten."
"Great," Danny yelled, "You'll be glad you went. There's going to be several guys there. We'll have a ball."      
Mom was putting supper on the table, when Dad got home from work. "How was your day?" Dad said, putting his arm around Mom's shoulder. "Things didn't go too smooth at work today, I'm beat."
"Jason's in a conflict with Danny," Mom said, "It's over a new boy at school. It seems no one wants to associate with him, and they've all tagged him with the name jerk."
"Maybe we should talk about it, Son," Dad sounded concerned. "Sometimes talking helps us find a solution to our problems."
"I don't know, Dad," I muttered. "I think I might have to work this out by myself." I heard a horn beeping. "That's Danny," I said, "I'll be home by ten."
I had no sooner gotten into the car when Danny started bragging. "Just wait until you see Greg's house," he boasted. "It's like something from outer space."
Danny's father stopped the car in front of Greg's house. It was huge and looked like something out of a storybook. "See you around ten, Dad," Danny said. "We'll be watching for you, so you wont have to wait on us."
We walked up the marble steps and Danny rang the doorbell. It played some kind of music instead of actually ringing, the way most doorbells do. Greg opened the door and invited us in. I'm sure his clothes came from the nicest store in the mall, and his hair had been styled by a hair stylist. Everything about him seemed perfect.
"Let's go to my room Danny," Greg said. "All my other friends are already here."
I tagged along behind them unnoticed. Greg's room was enormous and was filled with all the fantastic things Danny had told me about. There were five other boys mingling around the room that I didn't know.
"This is Danny," Greg said to the boys, completely ignoring me. "He's my one and only first cousin."
"This is great," Danny exclaimed, when the boys asked him to play some kind of game on the computer. "I'll have to visit Greg more often."
I spent the evening sitting in a chair, being ignored, and wishing it was time to go home. I was glad when Danny's parents arrived.
I know what I'm going to do about my problem now, I thought, on the way home. I know exactly how I'm going to handle it.
"I'll see you at school tomorrow, Danny," I said as I got out of the car. "Think about being nice to Tim, Okay"?
"Sure, Sure," Danny growled under his breath, to make certain his parents didn't hear him, "and the guy is still a jerk."
"I've been thinking about this kid everyone's calling a jerk," Dad said, when I went into the house. "Don't you think they're being a bit snobbish"?
"I've already decided what I'm going to do, Dad," I answered. "Trust me, I'll do the right thing."
"I'm sure you will, Son," Dad smiled. "I wont say anymore about it."
I walked into the hallway at school the next morning. My stomach feeling queasy from what I planned to do. The crowd was standing in a huddle and Tim was propped up against the classroom door alone.
"Hi, Danny," I said. "I'm going to welcome Tim to our school."
"You've got to be nuts," Danny yelled. "None of the gang will talk to you ever again."
"Maybe not," I said stubbornly, "but I'm going to do what I should have done yesterday."
"Hi, Tim," I said. "It's nice to meet you. Ask your parents if you can come to my house sometime. I'd like for you to meet my parents."
"Fantastic," Tim grinned broadly. "I'm sure my parents will let me come."
"Come on, Chuck," Danny said, as he stomped off in a huff. "It looks like Jason wants to become a jerk."
"What's wrong with you, anyway," I shot back. "If you ask me, it's you who is being a jerk."
"Sure," Danny sneered. "See ya, jerk."
"I'm sorry, Tim," I apologized. "I don't know what Danny's problem is."
"Don't worry about it, Jason," Tim smiled. "I'm kinda getting use to being called a jerk."
I ran all the way home that evening burst through the door, letting it slam behind me. "Mom," I yelled, "Can Tim come over for supper tomorrow evening"?
"That's a good idea," Mom agreed, drying her heads on her apron as she came into the living room. "If it's all right with his parents."
The next morning when I got to school, Tim was waiting in front of the doors. "Mom and Dad said I could come to your house after school," he smiled," If your parents don't mind."
"They don't mind," I said excited." Mom said you could come for supper tonight."
"I'll go to the office and call Mom," Tim said," and let her know I'll be going home with you after school."
Danny was right. No one would talk to me at school that day, even though I tried several times to strike up a conversation. By the end of the day I was really beginning to realize how Tim felt.
When we got to my house, I took Tim to the kitchen. "This is my Mom," I said proudly. "Mom this is Tim."
"It's nice to meet you, Tim," Mom smiled. "Jason's talked a lot about you."
After supper Tim and I did our homework, then we played several games. Before we knew it, Tim's parents had come to take him home.
"I want to thank you for having Tim over for supper," his Dad said. "You'll have to let Jason visit with Tim sometime."
"We were glad to have him," Dad smiled. "You've got a fine son there. Jason tells me that you're new in town. I'd like to invite you to church this Sunday. That is, if you've not already started attending another church."
"I'm sure my wife and Tim would love to come," Tim's father grinned. "Tim sang in the church choir back in Michigan."
"The church is on the corner of Chestnut and Ash Street," Dad explained. "Do you know where that is"?
"I pass it every morning going to work," Tim's Dad answered. "We'll see you there Sunday morning."
"You made a good decision, Son," Dad said as he closed the door. "Tim's a nice boy."
"I know, Dad," I said, "but I feel bad about Danny refusing to speak to me."
"You'll work it out," Dad assured me. "I got all kinds of confidence that you will."
Sunday morning when we arrived at church, Tim and his parents were sitting in the first row. "This young man has agreed to sing for us today," Pastor Edwards smiled. "He tells me he's a friend of yours, Jason."
"He's my best friend," I said, meaning it. "I'm glad he's going to sing today."
"He's got the voice of an angel," Mom whispered, when Tim finished singing. "I could listen to him sing all day."
When church was over, Pastor Edwards invited Tim and his family back the next Sunday. "We'll be here," Tim's dad smiled. "I enjoyed your sermon, Reverend."
The next day at school, Tim and I were eating lunch, when Danny and Chuck walked by. "Hi, Danny, Hi, Chuck," I said. "Would you like to join us"?
"No thanks," Danny muttered. "We're going to sit with Mary and Heather."
"We're not sitting with two jerks," Chuck gloated. "I'm sure Mary and Heather are particular who they sit with too."
"I'll ask them," I said, "They should be allowed to answer for themselves."
"Go ahead," Danny chuckled. "I double dare you to ask them."
"Okay, I will, you can't know what the answer will be, until you ask." I said, getting up and walking over to the table where Mary and Heather was sitting.
      "Hello, girls," I said, my knees trembling, scared they'd tell me no. "Would you like to eat at the table with Tim and me."
"Sure," Mary answered. "Do you want to eat with them, Heather"?
"Why not," Heather said, "We haven't had a chance to meet Tim."
A look of disbelief came to Danny's face, and for once he was speechless. "I guess we could eat with them too," Danny said, when he was finally able to speak again. "What do you think Chuck"?
"Fine with me," Chuck looked bewildered. "The more the better, I always say."
It took several weeks before the other kids would talk to Tim or us, but they finally came around. It might surprise you, but it was Dan who would get upset, if anyone so much as thought about calling Tim a jerk after that day. And, Dan and Tim were best friends all through school, and are still best friends today.
I wonder if I'll have to go through those type phases with my children. If I do, I hope they are able to make the right decisions, and not choose their friend, because of what they wear or how they look.

Copyright © 1998  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.