By Jean Boonstra
Words can’t hurt. Or can they?
Rosalyn ran across the school playground and after the soccer ball as fast as her legs could carry her. Reaching the soccer ball she kicked it.
“Mia, heads up!” Rosalyn shouted as the ball spun through the air.
Mia stopped the spinning ball, and with one smooth action, kicked it into the goal.
“Woo hoo!” Rosalyn cheered! “Good job, Mia!”
The school bell at Discovery Mountain Academy rang.
“Here, catch, Squirt,” Mia said with a smile, tossing the soccer ball towards Rosalyn.
Rosalyn caught the ball and tucked it under one arm.
“Good game, Squirt,” Mia said grinning as she ran back into the school.
Rosalyn frowned. Squirt? she thought. Did she really call me that?
“Great game, Rosalyn,” Kayla called out over her shoulder.
“Thanks,” Rosalyn said unenthusiastically. She slumped onto the playground bench.
“Hey,” Kayla asked plopping down beside her. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh,” Rosalyn answered without looking up. “There’s nothing really wrong.”
“Rosalyn,” Kayla said gently, “I’m a good listener.”
Rosalyn ran her hand over the soccer ball, but she didn’t answer. “Mia called me ‘Squirt’,” she finally explained.
“Squirt?” Kayla asked.
“Yeah, because I’m small. Everyone at my old school made fun of me because I’m small,” Rosalyn said tearfully.
“Oh, I see,” Kayla answered. “I don’t think that Mia was making fun of you.”
“Squirt. Shortie.” Rosalyn continued. “Pip Squeak. Everyone called me mean names at my old school. But it’s alright—names can’t hurt me.”
“Rosalyn,” Kayla answered, searching for the right words to say. “You do seem hurt.”
A tear slid down Rosalyn’s cheek. “I, I don’t want to be hurt,” she said.
Kayla wasn’t sure what to do next. She turned toward the school. Mia walked towards them.
“Rosalyn,” Kayla said gently. “Look at who’s coming out to talk to you.”
Rosalyn looked up at Mia, and jumped up to run inside.
“Oh no you don’t,” Kayla whispered and gently held her elbow so that she couldn’t run away.
“Rosalyn,” Mia asked, “what are you doing out here? Recess is over.”
“Talk to her,” Kayla whispered to Rosalyn, and walked towards the school.
“Rosalyn,” Mia asked her eyebrows crinkling with concern. “Are you okay?”
Rosalyn clutched the soccer ball tightly. “Mia,” she finally blurted out, “Why did you call me Squirt?”
“Squirt?” Mia asked.
“Yeah,” Rosalyn said quickly. “At my old school, kids made fun of me for being small. Squirt, shortie, I’ve heard all the names.”
Mia’s confusion turned into a smile. “Oh!” she said with a smile. “I wasn’t making fun of you, Rosalyn. Honest.”
“Oh,” Rosalyn questioned. “Then why did you call me that?
“Turn your hat around,” Mia said pointing to Rosalyn’s knit hat.
“My hat?” Rosalyn asked. She reached up to turn her hat around and felt the logo patch. Suddenly, she smiled.
“See,” Mia said, pointing to the patch. “It’s a picture of a fish squirting water out of its mouth.”
“My aquarium hat,” Rosalyn said with a laugh. “Oh, Mia, I thought that you were teasing me.”
“I’m sorry,” Mia said with a heartfelt smile. “I wouldn’t tease you, Rosalyn. Words can hurt.”
“They can,” Rosalyn answered nodding her head. She slipped her aquarium hat back on. “Hey Mia?” she asked tossing the ball up into the air. “Soccer again at lunchtime?”
“Of course,” Mia answered.
Words and names don’t hurt us physically but they can hurt. Our words matter—so choose yours carefully!