July 16th, 2024

Perceptions of people change as we age

By Lethbridge Herald on November 3, 2023.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

We all remember them, or maybe we were one of them: the new kid in town who never fit in, who just seemed to be a little different from everyone else.

In small towns, and I’m guessing bigger cities, too, meeting new friends isn’t always easy. And for a newcomer, struggling to find connections in a new place isn’t always easy.

Some people, because of their vibrant personalities, can feel comfortable anywhere immediately. They are the type of people others are drawn to because of a certain indescribable magnetism.

But not everyone is like that and for children who are shy and lack self confidence fitting in can be brutally tough.

I remember well what that was like – my first year in Raymond was my loneliest ever. I was a complete loner – unlike in Cardston where I had friends within days of plunking down at at desk in Mrs. Duce’s Grade 1 class at Leeside Elementary School which I believe is now the site of the Remington Carriage Centre.

But Raymond was different and I spent every school day and weekend that first year alone after school, except for the time Tom Brooks and I both didn’t do our math homework and tried to fake our way through answers when we got busted by our home room teacher. The hour we spent after class in school was basically the only company I had after school hours that entire year.

But things changed for me after that and by high school, while I was still horribly quiet among strangers, I was feeling completely at home. 

In fact, I was right in the thick of a lot of things. So much so that I’ve emceed the last two high school reunions, the last with my good friend Darrel Pack. Darrel and I weren’t close friends in school but over the years we became close. And I can say that about quite a few kids I grew up with but never really connected with in our youth.

And I’ve learned that people change – or at least some. The perceived cool kids, the bullies, the snobs – in retrospect, a lot was perception and sadly that perception has a huge impact on kids.

So recently when I was at an appointment and saw for at least the 12th time a person there I was shocked to learn we went to high school together. I never had a clue because I didn’t know the person’s name and the face after 45 years didn’t ring a bell.

When we got talking, the person told me they (I won’t use specific gender because I don’t want to embarrass the person) didn’t feel comfortable there after moving to town for the three years of high school. When I heard the name, I almost fell out of my chair because over the decades, that name has come up, especially before the last reunion, along with that of another person who nobody had seen for many years.

And the reason we remembered them is because we all liked these people – and none of my friends or I as we’ve discussed in recent days, had any clue they were uncomfortable or feeling lonely. 

If any of us had, I’m sure we would have tried to get them involved and that includes me, the former shy guy.

So I’ve done a lot of soul searching these last couple of weeks looking back at old times, and going through yearbooks and trying to think how reality may have been different than perception when it comes to quite a few kids. How many classmates that we thought were a bit different maybe had things going on behind the scenes that impacted them in ways we didn’t understand? I know I certainly had family secrets that I couldn’t talk about and still won’t to anyone.

A couple of us have talked at length how we all had different personal circumstances growing up that others undoubtedly didn’t know about – and we probably judged people based on what little we knew of them. 

That’s so unfair and it speaks really terribly about our own character growing up. 

We who thought everyone was equal as we bombed main street and hung out after school didn’t know how others may have been suffering through loneliness and a desire for acceptance.

In retrospect, we were all guilty of being inconsiderate of others’ feelings when we were younger. And today after all these decades to know one of our classmates didn’t feel part of us is heartbreaking. 

Because all of us were part of something special and everyone we crossed the stage with to collect our high school diplomas from Raymond High principal James Blumell should have felt that their peers cared about them. They deserved to feel we were all brothers and sisters, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, family or financial circumstances.

Hopefully now some do know. 

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Always enjoy reading your blog Mr. Beeber!
Oh how the world has changed from decades ago when life was so much easier and peaceful.
Today we have formed special interest groups who push their ideals on each other and demand we change, or else!
Leadership is weak and society sinks rapidly into the abyss and Canada as we once knew it, is no longer a country other nationalities seek to live in as their dream country. We have lost that once great attraction by all of the dysfunctional leadership and separation across this once great nation!
It is very sad that when an attack on a nation, where woman and children are raped, tortured and in some cases dismembered is celebrated by a union leadership who represents government employees in Ontario or by academics in some universities across this country. It is very sad when genocide is celebrated, while in a country who is pushing for reconciliation.
How far will we sink into that abyss?
To be back in high school decades ago, when life was so much different and we had respect for our fellow man!