“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Walter Winchell

 Do you ever think about the people who showed up in your life at just the right time, with just the right message, and how they forever changed the course of your life? Those who have crossed my path are like angels to me, people who saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. My grade 5 teacher who looked past my paralyzing shyness, brought me out of my shell by creating an evironment that allowed me to explore my creativity through writing, music and drama. My brother, Michael who was my best friend and constant companion for two years and hung out with me while I struggled to fit in at school. The police officer in my hometown who sat me down over coffee and encouraged me to take advantage of my move out west as a way to re-invent myself and grab onto opportunities that would be good for me. The strangers who took me into their home for three weeks during a record rainfall in British Columbia.  Not to mention all the lessons and acceptance I have learned from my parents and close friends.

Here’s a story from early in my life that I still think about every now and then: I was in the third grade and at the time, painfully shy. My favourite subjects were reading and composition. I was a chubby girl and was the subject of relentless teasing because of it. Although I was born in Canada, my German heritage and slight accent brought an onslaught of bullying my way as well– especially on Remembrance Day. My only wish was to blend in with the furniture – to be invisible, unremarkable; and so I was very quiet.

I don’t remember the names of all the kids in my class but one girl I do remember is Janice. Janice was cool. Janice was popular. Janice belonged to the Earring Gang. All the girls in the Earring gang had pierced ears with shiny little jewels dangling from them. I remember daydreaming about how wonderful it would be if kids like that were my friends. Lucky for me, Janice took an interest in me. Our parents knew each other and perhaps that is why – I don’t know. But Janice who appeared to me to be the ‘gang leader’ announced one day, that I was now officially a member of their gang. “But she doesn’t have pierced ears,” they chimed in unison. “It doesn’t matter,” said Janice, “I like her and want her in the gang.” The funny thing is, I doubt Janice even remembers this day, but she did something really special for a chubby girl and I have never forgotten it. In fact, nowadays, I consider myself quite the Champion of the Underdog. It wouldn’t surprise me if Janice, by her example, is the one responsible for that.

I know that the things we say and do impact people, whether positively or negatively, and often we don’t even realize we have changed the course of someone’s life. Thank you Janice and everyone else who has walked with me in my life even if you don’t know you’ve done so; you are angels to me.

Can you remember a time when someone believed in you and changed your life forever? Have you had the opportunity to thank them? I would be honoured if you would share your story with me in the comment section below.