For thirty-two years, I have held on to bitterness from a young man who made my fourth grade year a living hell. I cringe when I think of being in the fourth grade. I cringe when I remember my teacher. Seeing the look on my face from my fourth grade school picture brings back a flood of memories I would rather forget. The best way to forget is to forgive, which I have failed to do. So, this is my letter to you.
Dear little blond headed boy,
You teased me from day one about my red hair. You called me red-headed woodpecker, carrot top, ketchup head, and were the ring leader behind "Little Orphan Ginger". You heard my brothers call me "tumbleweed" (thanks to my short hair and lovely perm) and you used that when you tired of the other names.
You made me cry at recess. You made me cry in the classroom. You made me cry in P.E. because you didn't want to catch "red-headed Ginger cooties" from me while square dancing. Not only did I endure your meanness at school, I endured it on the weekends and in the summer because you lived a few blocks away from me. I broke my collarbone in fourth grade and had to wear a sling to school for a while. You used that to come up with more names and I wanted to just disappear.
You made me feel like an outcast. You made me feel like nobody in school liked me. You made me feel ashamed for being different than everyone else. I loathed and hated my red hair because of you. I missed more days of school in fourth grade than all my other years of school combined because of you. A day spent at home "sick" was a day away from you and another new nickname.
Those are the things I have carried with me since fourth grade. The mention of your name filled me with such hate. Fast forward thirty-two years later and not only do I forgive you for how you treated me, I am here to thank you.
Thank you for teaching me the cost of hurtful words and actions. Thank you for teaching me how to be tough and how not to let others opinions define who God made me to be. Thank you for showing me I could make it through just about anything and come out a much better person.
Thank you for letting me see the beauty in being different. Thank you for causing me to embrace my hair color. Thank you for showing me to be proud of my hair color because it was picked out for me by God! I would not be Ginger without my red hair!
Thank you for whatever it was that caused you to ease up on the names in fifth grade. When I realized we were in the same homeroom, I cried. Thank you for showing me praying to God, even about being teased, was powerful. In part, what you did to me in fourth grade helped make me the woman I am today. For that, I am thankful.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones....but your words will no longer hurt me."
Ginger (Ticer) Wilson