Be different.

About a week ago a young girl who frequents the bookshop and likes to chat with me came into the store and told me that Grandparents/Special Friend Day was coming up at her school. Me: Oh fun!

Her: Well, yes, except, my grandpa can't make it.

Me: Oh no... that's a bummer.

Her: Well... I was wondering... since he can't make it, I'm allowed to invite a special friend.... Would you be my special friend?

What's that? Oh, that mess on the floor? It's just my heart in liquid form. Once I regain my composure, I'll get a mop and clean it right up, I promise.

So, yeah, today I got to go to the local Montessori school for two hours and be this girl's Special Friend for the day, which basically consisted of getting to wear a pin with her face on it and going to classes with her to get a peek into her life at school, followed by a choir concert before we were all dismissed and released back into the wild. It was delightful and I have never felt cooler.

At one point in the day, we were sitting in her homeroom (which is not called homeroom, but I can't remember the cute Montessori term they used, so I'm just applying public school terms to this situation) and as I was looking around, I noticed that on the wall above their 3-D printer (whaaaaaaat) were 8x10 photos of each student and a sentence about who they want to be or what they want to do with their lives. It was cute. While my special friend made her homework to-do list for the week, I started reading each kid's sentence. Most of them were standard: "I want to be a teacher," or "I want to change the world," or one kid's read "I want to make the world laugh" (rock on, little buddy), and then I found my young friend's photo.

"I want to be different."

Things in the news have been bleak lately and I've been trying really hard to keep my optimism going and to only perpetuate happy thoughts. If you've noticed, a good amount of my twitter posts consists of cute puppies and other baby animals. I just want to make people smile and to let them know that there are still things to be happy about.

When I saw this girl's sentence, I felt that feeling that I try and make everyone else feel, and all day long I've been trying to figure out why that made me smile. I think it's because people who intend to be different are the people who tend to think about why they do what they do or don't do. This girl, a sixth-grader, is already adamantly refusing to give in to peer pressure and blending in. She has already decided that standing out was better than all that.

It also helps that I know her, so I know that her version of different isn't achieved by being cruel or tough, but instead by memorizing strange facts and befriending booksellers. It's by writing silly poems and drawing goofy pictures of people, and by volunteering to help build book displays while her dad goes grocery shopping instead of staying home and taking selfies (not that I think selfies are bad, mind you, I just think that a lot of kids would rather take selfies than hang out in bookshops). She's a do-gooder and an all around cool kid. She's certainly different, but I'm certain that she's not alone.

So for all of you who think that the future is lost and that every new generation is worse than the one before you, I want you to know that somewhere out there, there are kids like this one: kids who want to be different. And I want you to remember that being different is what makes a difference.

And I think we're going to be just fine.


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Awkwardly Awesome People to Be Aware of #2: Kelsey

So remember back in December when I was all "check out these guys who are saving the world by climbing mountains!" Well, now I've got another person to introduce you to: Meet Kelsey:

kelsey

Kelsey and I met while we were both studying abroad for a year in England.  I was on my way home from the pub at like... 2 in the afternoon and she had just gotten to our flat where we would be roommates. Due to the fact that I was a little buzzed and trying to cover that up, she thought I was a stoner. I thought she was a ditzy party girl.

What I'm trying to say is that first impressions are often wrong. I'm not a stoner (I just like day drinking) and Kelsey, it turns out, it's the most badass person I know.

Why?

Well, folks, not only is she not ditzy  (in fact, she's super smart), but she's also decided to just like... save the world or whatever. We got back from the UK, graduated college, and while the rest of us were looking for jobs or getting engaged, Kelsey was all "I'm gonna go to Madagascar for a few years with the Peace Corps. and live in a hut while I teach little kids and mothers about water sanitation and what not! You guys have fun with your stuff!"

Right??? She's awesome. She's not even Awkwardly Awesome. She's just plain awesome.

In fact, she's so amazing that she's taken on this crazy huge project of getting decent latrines built in her village so that the residents have somewhere sanitary to go to the bathroom. Currently, the people in her village are without latrines because the river that they bathe and drink from has washed away the ones they had before. So.. Kelsey is building stronger ones. Because she's awesome. (How many times have I said that?)

Here's the even cooler thing, though! YOU get to be amazing, too! Kelsey, as you can imagine, can't really do all of this completely on her own. She needs help, and that's where those of us who are super lazy and sit on our couches all day get to take some action. I know that the Doctor Who coffee mug you're looking at on thinkgeek.com is SO COOL, but if it's between getting that this week or helping someone not poop in the river that they bathe and drink from, I'm begging you to go with the latter. I mean, I want the mug, too, but it'll be there next week.

If I've convinced you or if you want to read more about this from Kelsey herself, click here.

Have a wonderful day, Duckies!