Under this tree, beneath the tall and extended branches, so very thick with leaves, I stand here alone.
I am hidden from the sun, and I melt away into the shadows cast over me.
Sometimes I can feel the other children looking at me. I can hear them whispering.
Under this tree, I turn away from them. I run my fingers down the deep grooves of the bark, slowly and intently. I tiptoe in circles, balancing myself on top of the outstretched roots that rise in and out of the soil. I wrap my arms around the thick, coarse trunk, but my hands don’t even meet halfway.
Under this tree, time passes ever so slowly. Day after day, the other children run past me, laughing and shrieking, exploring parts of the playground which I’ve never even been to.
Days go by, and every day the air grows a bit colder. And when the leaves begin to change from a rich green to the shades of the autumn rainbow, I am relieved.
Days go by, and the thick ice atop the branches weighs them ever so slightly closer to earth. I can no longer find the roots to dance on as they are hidden beneath crunchy snow.
I am so very cold.
Days go by. Finally, the sun returns, and I welcome the warmth on my face.
I am relieved.
I wonder now why the other children still have not found me.
Have they been looking for me, wanting me to join in their games? But how could they see me underneath this tree?
For a moment, I think about calling out. I imagine myself waving, seeking their attention. I want to play, I think.
But instead, I turn away.
When the school year comes to an end, and my days on this playground are over, I am relieved.
Because under this tree – my protector, my only friend – I have survived.
Written from the perspective of a child who is lonely, bullied, or different. May it serve as a reminder for us and our children to pay attention to those around us, say hello, and include others. Our simple display of kindness can impact the life of another in a very big way.