My Story

I was the laugh­ing stock of the class

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - BY COLIN RYAN

WHEN I WAS in the fifth grade, you could have told me, “Colin, it’s not cool to wear the same pair of sweat pants ev­ery sin­gle day of school,” but I was com­fort­able.

And you could have told me, “Colin, it’s not cool to go to the school dance and do the Macarena for the en­tire du­ra­tion of Guns N’ Roses’s ‘Novem­ber Rain’.” I would not have stopped. You could have even told me, “Colin, it’s not cool to be an ac­tive mem­ber of your lo­cal church’s clown troupe.”

Then I went to sixth grade, pri­mary school, and all of a sud­den, it was clear there were only two op­tions. I could some­how be cool, or I could some­how be in­vis­i­ble. And I have to say, I was do­ing pretty well at op­tion two. Un­til the third les­son on the first day, when a teacher had us fill out a ques­tion­naire with ‘get to know you’ ques­tions.

I as­sumed that she would be read­ing them pri­vately, so I felt safe to share from the per­spec­tive of the sweat­pants-wear­ing, Macarena-danc­ing, Chris­tian­clown­ing lit­tle snowflake that I was.

The teacher col­lected the sheets, shuf­fled them and

re­dis­tributed them to the class. We went one by one. We read out the stu­dent’s name and then our three favourite an­swers. My sheet ended up in the hands of a kid who was one of the coolest and mean­est.

His ‘favourite an­swers’ of mine were the three worst ones to be read out loud. The first ques­tion, “What’s your favourite movie?” The other kids wrote Scream and Uni­ver­sal Sol­dier. I re­mem­ber think­ing, We’re 11! How are you see­ing R-rated movies?

He read my an­swer, Beauty and the Beast (which I main­tain holds up bet­ter than the others, but I couldn’t make that ar­gu­ment ef­fec­tively at the time). A laugh erupted in the room, and my cheeks burned be­cause I knew we were just get­ting started.

The next ques­tion he read was “Where would you like to travel?” The others had said,

“Aus­tralia”, “Ja­pan.” I wrote, “Wher­ever a good book takes me.”

The laugh­ter this time had an ex­plo­sive qual­ity to it. The kids were high­fiv­ing.

The fi­nal ques­tion was “What do you like to do on week­ends?” The other kids wrote, “Hang out with friends” and “Go to the mall.” I wrote, “Per­form with Clown for Christ.”

Those who weren’t laugh­ing at me were sort of star­ing at me in dis­gust. I felt about an inch tall. I re­mem­ber fix­at­ing on my Trap­per Keeper binder and try­ing to fig­ure out if I could some­how dis­ap­pear in­side it.

But then, some­thing amaz­ing hap­pened. A voice from the back of the room said, “Guys, cut it out.” And the room went silent. The voice be­longed to Michelle Siever, and Michelle Siever was pop­u­lar and cool. She had sway. The room went quiet.

But Michelle wasn’t done. She turned to the teacher and said, “Why are you let­ting this hap­pen? What is the point if we’re gonna make fun of each other?”

I don’t re­mem­ber the teacher or the kids’ names, but I re­mem­ber Michelle Siever’s name. I re­mem­ber how it felt when she spoke up for me be­cause she showed me that day that we ac­tu­ally have op­tions.

You can be cool, and you might be re­mem­bered for a lit­tle while. You can be in­vis­i­ble, and you won’t be re­mem­bered at all. But if you stand up for some­body when they need you most, then you will be re­mem­bered as their hero for the rest of their life.

I re­mem­ber how it felt when she spoke up for me be­cause she showed me that we ac­tu­ally have op­tions

Colin Ryan, 36, is a comedic fi­nan­cial speaker from Ver­mont

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