True Friends Look at the Heart
Leigh was a shy and quiet girl. School days were hard sometimes. She loved learning in school and really liked all her teachers, but there were some mean kids who would tease her all the time. She tried to make friends, but was afraid to do group things in class because these same mean kids would try to embarrass her. She thought she was a nice person, her Mom and dad told her she was smart and pretty, but the mean kids made her feel bad about herself. They made fun of her clothes and her glasses and braces on her teeth, pushed her out of her seat on the bus and stole her cookies at lunch. She was trying to be kind to them, but they would not stop doing mean things. She was very lonely, sad and tired of being bullied.
The only friend she had all the time was Big Mikey the neighbor’s horse. She could come home off the school bus and go back to the pasture connecting to her backyard talk to the big old Thoroughbred about her day. Big Mikey always listened and accepted her just as she is. She would stroke his brown nose through the fence and he would stand there and listen to her for hours, swishing his tail back and forth and flicking his ears, stopping to chomp on a carrot here and there. This was always something Leigh looked forward to – her time with Big Mikey the horse. He helped her get through the hard days more than he knew.
As Leigh got older, she started Middle School. For Leigh it was just a bigger school with more kids and more bullies unfortunately. Leigh tried to avoid the bullies in the lunchroom and in the hallways and on the bus. She thought if she stayed quiet and to herself – maybe they would leave her alone. She felt like she wanted to be invisible.
Leigh enjoyed writing stories and poems, and wrote in her journal often. She thought if she could just hide behind her books, the bullies would not bother her. She tried that on the bus, and two girls started calling her “old library lady”, and another boy kept trying to steal her journal out of her hands as she was writing in it. He grabbed it and started reading out loud to everyone her private things she wrote in her journal and laughed and mocked her. Then he only gave it back after the bus driver yelled at him.
One day it was just too much. That afternoon Leigh got off the school bus completely worn out from all the name calling and teasing she received from the bullies all the way home for a 30 minute bus ride. She came in the front door of her house, threw her back pack on the chair and laid down in the middle of the carpet – just no more energy to even make it to her room. Mom came in and was baffled. “Leigh, are you Ok sweetheart?” Mom asked in a worried tone.
“Oh, Mom, why are people so mean? I just don’t understand why the kids at school constantly want to make fun of me.” Leigh replied. “Today, I had really hard day. I had gym class today, I could not keep up with the running on the track with the other kids. I did not want to stand out by being the slowest person because I knew it would just be another reason for the mean girls in my gym class to say something hateful to me. Uggggg!!” She groaned.
“I am so sorry, sweetheart.” Mom said trying to console her.
Leigh continued; “I feel like no matter what I do I just can’t get away from the bullying, it’s like I am a target or something. I JUST DON’T GET IT!” Leigh threw her hands up in frustration.
“I know that I am a nice person, maybe not most popular or in sports.” Leigh explained. “But Mom, I don’t want to keep going to the teachers or the guidance counselors all the time, because they always ask me who is bullying me, and if I tell them, then those kids get in trouble, and then those same kids just come after me even worse.” Leigh leaned up against the couch and hugged her knees tightly. Tears welling up in her eyes, she was in complete despair.
Mom then explained to her that kids can be mean because they don’t yet understand that God made each of us unique and for a special purpose. Sometimes those kids don’t have a happy life at home, and they are acting out their anger at school on other kids. Many times these same kids that ‘bully’ actually are very afraid themselves, and put on a mean attitude to pretend they are tough.
Leigh thought about that for a minute. That could be true, but then why didn’t the other kids like her? Why could they not see that she had a kind heart? Leigh learned in the Bible that God looks at the heart of a person and not what they look like or clothes they wear. Leigh liked the clothes she wore and she saw nothing wrong with wearing glasses or having braces. Why did she not fit in with the other kids? She was confused and really tired from dealing with all of it. It was affecting her school work and grades.
Sometimes she would get a stomach ache from being worried about facing the bullies each day and she did not even want to go to school. Leigh kept trying to ignore the bullying. But the same kids kept bullying her, with the same old stuff every day. They made fun of her clothes and her glasses and braces on her teeth, pushed her out of her seat on the bus and stole her cookies at lunch, One time she even tried to bring brownies for lunch and they took them, too!
By the time Leigh came home each day all she wanted to do was cry. Leigh’s Mom and Dad went to the school and spoke to her teachers and even the principal. They all wanted to help Leigh, but if Leigh would not tell them who the bullies were, they could not help her very much. Leigh did not want to tell because she knew if she did those same bullies would come against her even more when the teachers were not around.
Leigh was a smart girl, and her teachers loved her and she loved to learn. She was so frustrated that she could not enjoy school because of the sneaky bullies. There had to be a way to get through her Middle School years in peace. “Please God,” Leigh prayed through tears. “Help me through this, God, Please give me a true friend who likes me for who I am and will stand by me, no matter what, Amen.”
A few weeks later, when Leigh came home off the school bus, she asked her Mom if she could do homeschooling for a while so she could get away from the bullying. She really needed a break. She had been researching homeschooling on her own, as a possible option to take some time away from public school. Her Mom said OK we will give it a try if she could get her classes online and all the credits she would need for 7th and 8th grade.
Leigh went on her computer and gathered all the research for homeschooling online to present to her parents. She was determined to be able to take a break from public school to get away from the bullies. Mom was impressed with all her research. They sat down and made the decision for Leigh to do homeschool for a while, until she was ready to go back to public school. They went ahead and enrolled that day online! The next day, for the first time in a long time, Leigh got up in the morning excited to begin a school day – on her computer! Her Mom had waffles ready for her and she could do her studies in her pajamas! Mom was there to help if she got stuck plus she could ask questions of her online teachers. It was a very cool deal!
During the day, Leigh could even go out back and visit Miss Bridgett’s horses any time she wanted to take a break. Big Mikey had been getting older and more feeble, and was mostly staying close by the barn. Leigh would walk up the lane to the barn spend time with him. He was always happy to see her, nickering to her as he saw her approaching. Rubbing his head on her arm as he knew she had carrots in her pocket. Leigh enjoyed having more freedom to do what she wanted, but she also had to make sure she got her homeschool assignments handed in daily. Her parents were proud of her, and she was too. She even helped Mom cook dinner, or if she wanted she could just heat up a pizza in the oven when Mom was busy in her office.
Leigh still just wanted some of her own friends to accept her for who she was and see that she could be a good friend too! Hanging with Big Mikey made the days brighter – and she was so relieved that she did not have to deal with bullies anymore.
One winter day, Leigh and her Mom came home from the store, Leigh happened to glance back at Miss Bridgett’s place and could not see Big Mikey anywhere, not even up by the barn. Leigh got worried about her old friend. When they got in the house, Mom called Miss Bridgett to ask her if everything was OK. Leigh heard her Mom say, “Oh Miss Bridgett we are so sorry! Is there anything we can do?” Leigh knew it was bad news. Her Mom hung up the phone, and said with a deep sigh, “Leigh, I have sad news…. Big Mikey is gone…. he died this afternoon, I am so sorry sweetheart, I know you were very fond of him.”
Leigh felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach. All she been through and now this. She quietly went to her room, laid down and cried on her pillow. Her Mom came in and sat on the end of her bed. “Leigh,” Her Mom said gently. “I know you are very sad. This news is hard to take, we will miss seeing Big Mikey out back. But Miss Bridgett is very sad to lose Big Mikey too, she had him for a long time. He was her horse and she loved him.” Leigh looked up at her Mom, wiped her tears and thought for a moment – and after swallowing hard she said; “Mom, can we get Miss Bridgett a card and tell her we are sorry about Big Mikey and let her know how much happiness he brought us and Granny over the years?”
“I think that would be a wonderful thing to do.” Said Mom. “You truly have a beautiful heart, Leigh. I know Miss Bridgett will be comforted to hear how Big Mikey was a friend to so many of us.”
Leigh and Mom found the perfect card at the store the next morning with a picture of a horse grazing in a misty pasture. They sat down together and wrote out a message to Miss Bridgett, thanking her for sharing Big Mikey with all of them and what a good friend he was. Leigh sealed up the envelope and drew a picture of Big Mikey in pencil on the back of the envelope and addressed the card to Miss Bridgett. She ran to the mailbox and set it in there. She hoped Miss Bridgett would feel better about losing Big Mikey after she read the card. She felt better just to be able to send the card. It felt good to know that she could at least do something to help the empty space Big Mikey left when they all looked out to the pasture – and he was no longer there, ready to come to the fence and happily munch on carrots.
That night Leigh could not sleep. Her mind would not be quiet. Even though she was doing well in homeschool, she was still very lonely. Horses had brought her so much joy, and she missed Big Mikey already. She was shy about doing things around kids and other people. But she enjoyed being around her pets and animals. She was comfortable around them. Sometimes she would go to a youth event at church and she just felt like she was not confident enough to take part in group activities. She needed more time to learn how to become more sure of herself. It was really hard to trust new kids to be her friends, since she had been so hurt by the mean kids who had bullied her in the past.
So many times in her young life, she felt like God was passing her by – that maybe He did not really hear prayers or even care about her. She had been rejected by the mean kids that she was just trying to be friends with. Then Big Mikey passing away. “Life is so hard and cruel!” Leigh thought aloud as she laid awake looking at the ceiling.
One thing Leigh did know for sure was she wanted to do more with horses. Leigh was learning all she could about horses, because she wanted her very own horse to raise and care for. She had gone to the public library and checked out numerous horse books. Her Mom had told her how she used to ride horses when she was young and had given Leigh her old horse pictures and books of all the different horse breeds. Leigh’s favorite horses were “paints” especially the black and white colors with big spots. Her dream was to have her very own “paint horse” that would belong to her someday to love. She just was not sure how it could ever be possible. Her parents told her they did not have the money to buy her a horse of her own.
Could she really have enough faith to believe God could bring her a horse that loved her and accepted her? A horse that was truly all hers? Was this even worth asking God for? Would he even hear her prayer?
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