As an immigrant to the United States, I neither looked nor acted like an American as a child. I spoke little English and was unable to even spell my own name in kindergarten. As a result, I remained a recluse from most of the other children, preferring my little corner in the classroom to the flurry of activities the other kids participated in. But in spite of all this, the thing I wished for the most in the world was a friend. Yet I remained too shy to approach any of the other kindergarteners in my class and found myself companionless and lonely.
I ran home crying. Bawling my eyes out, I turned on the television, hoping to find respite from my woes in a cartoon. The cartoon that was on was from the animated Disney television series Winnie-the-Pooh.
This episode struck a chord in me. Pooh was right. I couldn’t expect a friend to suddenly just pop into my life. I had to do something as well. Pooh’s words paved the path to a revelation. I realized that the only way to meet a friend was to be one. That year in kindergarten, I began to interact and open myself to others and soon met a boy named Tom who shared the same interests as I did. We became the best of buddies. In no time at all I had found a friend.
The years passed and although Tom moved away, we still stayed in touch. In addition, through my expanded interaction with others I had found myself a host of other friends. Even when I switched schools, Pooh’s advice stayed with me. I saw that it wasn’t hard to find something in others that you liked and that if you treat others kindly, they will reciprocate one hundred percent of the time.
Now, years after I heard Pooh’s insightful words, I am the captain of my school’s debate team, have been an instructor at a public speaking camp, and have also been voted twice as the “Coolest Clown” by my peers. My friends tell me I’m outgoing and outspoken, never shy to talk to a total stranger. I have made it my personal duty to find those who are too shy to speak in my classes and plop myself down next to them and introduce myself. I’ve met more people this way than I have waiting for others to come and talk to me. Pooh’s advice, however simple and seemingly childish, has nevertheless reverberated throughout my entire life.
I have been able to become friends with so many people, no matter how shy and close-lipped when I met them, because I saw a piece of me in them. I realized that these people had put up walls not to keep others out, but like me, to see who cared enough to break them down. In the end, it was a stuffed teddy bear’s wise words that gave me the necessary tools to do so.