Friday, August 08, 2008

Loners who need help

From TODAY, Voices
Friday August 8, 2008

I once served as a counsellor at a secondary school, and one afternoon, I saw a student, whose name was Manny, in the hall crying uncontrollably. I invited him into my office where he told me what was bothering him. Manny said: “In the whole world, I don’t have one friend. Not one. There’s not a person alive who cares whether I live or die. I don’t go to school parties or football games because there’s no one to go with. I never have anyone to even talk to, and sometimes, I think I can’t stand it anymore.”

A year later, I was talking to the vice principal in charge of discipline at that same school, and he said: “Hey, do you remember a student named Manny, who used to follow you around campus? Well, he did the strangest thing today. He’s never been a troublemaker, but another student said something insulting to him, and he picked up a knife and stabbed the boy.

“I wonder what would make a good kid do something like that, especially when he’s never seemed to have any big problems before?” Well, Manny’s violent behaviour fits a familiar pattern. How many times have you read about a loner, a quiet young man living in a neighbourhood, who turns out to be a killer? In most of those cases, isolation and loneliness play a role.

Human beings are social creatures with great needs for acceptance and respect. In some particularly vulnerable individuals, the failure to find a niche is not only uncomfortable, it can even be fatal.
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