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Strength in Numbers by Noreen Heffernan

Isn’t it true that we all just want to fit in? We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves but to be able to BE ourselves in the group; to be unique in our own right.

To have others accept us for who we are, whether we are quirky, silly, funny, authoritarian, quiet, loud, faithful, faithless, open, happy, etc…

We want to be ourselves but we want to fit it.I take a dance class every Tuesday and Thursday evening. I really love it. I am only about 5-6 classes in. I’m still learning the routines. Everyone else has been coming for years. They know each other and all the moves, hip sways, hand motions, and side-steps. I’m pretty quick at learning the steps but I’m brand new so I’m still catching on. Before class, they all sit in a circle together and chat. I kind of stand on the outside of the group. It is so funny that even at my age, I feel like I wish I could be sitting in the group also. I mean, they are MUCH younger than me. My mom laughed when I told her. “Oh Noreen.” “What? I wouldn’t mind sitting and chatting before class.” My mom’s advice was not to get to class early.” Ha!! I mean look…I’m completely ok with it and comfortable in standing alone. But, of course we always want to feel a part of something. Why wouldn’t we? Nobody wants to be the one who is standing alone.

Have you seen or “liked” the facebook page, “Happy Birthday Colin.” It has over 2 MILLION ‘Likes’ on facebook. It is about a boy who is turning 11 who didn’t want a birthday party because he said he doesn’t have any friends. He eats lunch alone in the office every day. His mom created a fan page to send him positive thoughts and messages to make his birthday special. As I write this through tears, I know that he is going to have the most beautiful birthday ever. All because of one fact, there is strength in numbers.

I really think it is amazing what the power of positivity can do. It can move mountains. More importantly, it can crush negativity.

As a parent, you pray to God that your child is not the one who eats alone or stands on the outside of the group. But, I guess we cannot control that. What we can control is a way to combat the negativity, just as Colin’s mom did. She found a way; a mother always finds a way!

We as parents can find a way to teach our children not to be the bullies, but to be the ones who unite with others against the negativity of our world. And if nobody is standing up for good, we need to teach our children to be the ones who stand up alone and say, “you can eat with me,” or “come sit with us.” Our children need to be confident enough to stand out against everyone else (the haters) and do the right thing, despite any backlash they may receive. And I guess we also have to teach our children to be strong enough if we have to sit alone. There are always people who love us; that our family will always accept us.

I know it is easy for me to say this. I lived through middle school and high school. I know that the world is vast; it is bigger than the hallways of our schools. It goes beyond the end of our neighborhood street. I know that now. I can say this though, those feelings don’t completely dissipate. They always linger somewhere, even if it is just a passing thought. They are there. We all need connections. But in middle school, that is all we know. Those feelings are big and encompassing. So, we (as parents) have to remember this as we move through our daily life. We have to consistently remind our children to be nice to everyone, even the little boy who sits alone. We have to. We need to. Do not forget it.

When I tried to teach this to my 2 year old, she responded, “POOPY!!!!” I mean, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. A little premature, yes??! But, it didn’t fall to deaf ears with my 4 year old. She said she will try to talk to the little girl in her class who doesn’t speak or smile. I said, “Yes, try every single day. Even if she isn’t smiling on the outside, I’m sure she is smiling on the inside because someone is trying!”

Colin’s life is about to change and I am so happy for him and his family. His mom proved there is strength in numbers. And, we are doing a pretty good job at teaching people to be kind and inclusive. But, let’s also think about all the other boys and girls sitting alone. They don’t have 2 million “likes” on facebook. They are just moving through their life, trying to find a connection; they are hoping to find friends who understand them and want to sit with them.

It starts and ends with teaching the right thing to the youth! Have a conversation with your children. Tell them to be inclusive and accept others for who they are. TEACH THEM TO BE BRAVE! Plant the seed, let it grow, and maybe one day, nobody will have to eat alone.

Click here to see Colin’s Facebook page. Give it a like. Send him a happy birthday wish!

~Noreen Heffernan,Writer, MA in Public and Corporate Communications, Certified in PR Writer, Growing Ladies


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