Monday, June 7, 2010

Peer Leader Post: M&M's by Marcos Garcilazo

I love M&M’s. When I was little, I used to get a small bag of M&Ms in my lunchbox, along with my CapriSun, baby carrots, and flutternutter sandwich. At lunch, I would open the bag and divide the M&M’s by color and give my best friend all the red, yellow, and green. I would get the brown, blue, and orange M&M’s. Eventually, Mom stopped putting M&M’s bags in my lunchbox and replaced them with chocolate bars. I'm not sure why, but the chocolate bar never tasted as good. To this day, every time I get M&M’s, I still remember sitting on that table diving up M&M’s, thinking them different simply because they looked different.

I no longer divide my M&M’s and refuse the yellow ones, but I will always remember doing it. It's one of those things that you remember at the oddest of times. I remembered it my very first day of high school. I showed up wearing jeans and a black hoodie and tennis shoes, happy to see my friends but scared about the fact that the school population had gone from about two hundred to a thousand. Instantly, I was an M&M, and some big hand was sitting there dividing us up. I went to say “hi” to the other Hispanic students and started catching up, half in English and half in Spanish. I had already been placed within "my group." We have so many ways to divide ourselves - gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, height, weight, hair color, hometown, language, interests, socioeconomic status, occupation, by association, etc, etc. Those are some of the biggest, but we have so many ways to divide ourselves. On the one hand, it's easier to make friends with people that you share common interests, but on the other hand, if we're divided into groups, there's going to be a lot less people around altogether. Doesn't the saying go "the more, the merrier?"

Once we were all in our groups, it became an "us versus them" field. That division of the student body became the ground from where bullying, teasing, intimidation, and isolation sprung. All of the sudden, people felt it was okay to make fun people outside their group. It was okay to make fun of the kid that was overweight, it was okay to make fun of the (perceived or labeled) “gay” kid, and sometimes, it was okay to do more than just verbally harass them. Because we had divided ourselves, and everyone in the school had something to say about someone, it was easy to justify an "us and them" mentality. That mentality eventually fueled behaviors that are all too common in our schools: bullying, teasing, and harassing.
I'm not proud of the fact that I made "he's a , therefore " statements. I wish I hadn't, but wishing that I hadn't doesn't change the fact that I did. We do to ourselves what I used to do to my M&M’s - divide them up, accept some, and reject others. At the end of the day, when one's at the receiving end of negative treatment, instead of there being a ton of different-colored M&Ms, there may just be one or two, or none at all to offer support and help to make it through that tough time. I'll never know just how many chances to meet new, amazing people I missed because I was so convinced that I was so different. The fact of the matter was, I was just a kid and they were just kids too. We might have looked different, but the bottom line was the same: we're all just people.

I've grown up since freshman year of high school. Today, I look at the people the same way I look at M&M’s - on the outside, we all may look different from each other, but on the inside, I know we're all the same. We're just people. The outside doesn't matter because true friendship has nothing to do with how you look or what you do or where you come from. The outside of the M&M is nothing but a shell, but the true treat is right underneath.

If we spent more time looking at the true nature of people and less on looking for differences, we would have a stronger, better community. We, the youth, hold in our hands the future. We have the chance to slowly start changing our ways, putting us all together instead of splitting us apart. I have that power and know what when I have children, I'll make sure they understand that although the M&M’s might be different colors on the outside, on the inside, they're all wonderful delights.

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