The new girl at school

I’ll never forget how I felt on my first day of high school. 

I had just moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado—from The Principia, a small private school for Christian Scientists, to a huge public school. And I had unknowingly convinced myself that I could be accepted and loved only by those who shared my faith. I was terrified to walk into a school where I knew only my brother, where teachers didn’t know me, and where there was no dress code, so kids had piercings, tattoos, pink hair. Everything was different! 

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The workload didn’t help. I had signed up for as many AP and honors classes as my schedule allowed, and it felt unbearable on top of having to attend cross-country practices. The entire first week of classes I cried on and off, missing my old teachers and friends. Every night I would go home and cry more, begging my parents to let me go back to school in Missouri. They would tell me that this was the perfect time to put into practice what I’d learned at my old school and in Sunday School. One night, my dad laughed at the description of my fears.

“What?!” I demanded. How could he be so insensitive!

He said, “So you believe God and Love are everywhere, except in one school building.”

I had to admit that sounded silly, so the next day I walked through the hallways saying a familiar spiritual statement to myself, “There is no spot where God [Love] is not,” as well as keeping in mind a quote from that week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). 

That inspiration comforted me throughout my morning. However, by the end of second period, I felt tears leaking out of my eyes, and quickly began to hide my face. My teacher looked concerned and unsure as to what to do, but kept teaching. When the bell rang, I sat in my chair as everyone left, trying to pull myself together in order to apologize to my teacher for crying during his class. I couldn’t get words to come out of my mouth. My teacher reassured me it was okay as he packed up and invited me into his office. 

When I could finally speak, I explained how it was my first time at a large school and how I was from Missouri. My teacher told me he had lived in Missouri and had gone to a big school then switched to a small one, and he understood what I was going through. He told me that he was there if I needed to talk again, and I composed myself and left. 

As I walked to lunch, I turned on my cellphone and saw I had two new text messages, both from my mom. (Later I found out my teacher had e-mailed my parents and my cross-country coach following our conversation that day.)

The first text was a quote from Mary Baker Eddy’s writings: “Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort” (TheFirst Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210). In the second one, my mom mentioned the passage on angels from the Bible Lesson, “12 legions of angels—did you know that’s about 72,000? More angels than students!” I thought about this idea, that there are even more of God’s angels guarding me than people in the school, who I felt were opposing me.

It was the first time I felt loved in that school. Soon after, I began to notice little things—a girl who smiled at me in the hallway every day (whose name I still don’t know); my “scary” math teacher who joked with us and turned out to be like a big teddy bear; some people I’d seen in the hallway and had been scared of but who were actually incredibly nice; and a girl who came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re in my speech class! We should be friends!” 

Everywhere I looked, I saw more love than fear. Soon my grades improved, I had friends in my classes, I had people to sit with at lunch, and I’d gone from running in the open cross-country meets (slowest meets) to the varsity state meet.

Throughout the year, I still had challenges with tough classes, time-consuming homework, sports, making new friends, and keeping in touch with my old friends; but most important, I had lost my initial fear. 

Last summer, I again moved to a new large public school in a new state. I expected to have a much more graceful transition, and I did. I’ve continued to prove that feeling loved is not limited to those people in your own faith community. We just need to take a look around and see the love. 

The haircut
August 22, 2011

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