Danny’s Courage

Danny’s Courage

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Danny’s Courage

Patterning your life around others’ opinions is nothing more than slavery.

~Lawana Blackwell

I was in seventh grade when Danny transferred to my school and became my first real crush. He had the darkest of brown eyes and light blond hair with a dark complexion. I fell for Danny the first day he arrived, and many of the girls in my class felt the same way. That, however, soon changed.

Danny had been going to our school for about a week when his parents picked him up in an old beat-up car that spewed exhaust and made loud banging sounds. The girls who had previously adored him looked disgusted. It was obvious that Danny was poor and that was that. He was no longer boyfriend material.

I had a poor family as well; I just hid it from everyone. I was so ashamed of how we lived that I never had kids come over to my house. Even though I couldn’t do a thing about it, I felt like the kids in my class would judge me if they knew the truth. It was a lot of work keeping my secret, but I figured it was easier than it would be to not have any friends.

One day, our teacher, Mr. Sims, announced that the seventh-grade field trip would be to an amusement park. The classroom buzzed with excitement as the girls discussed what they would wear and what they should bring with them. I sat back and listened, knowing that my parents did not have the money to send me. It made me angry to feel so left out. But not Danny. He simply told everyone that he wouldn’t be going. When Mr. Sims asked him why, Danny stood up and stated, “It’s too much money right now. My dad hurt his back and has been out of work for a while. I’m not asking my parents for money.”

Sitting back down in his seat, Danny held his head up proudly, even though whispering had begun. I could only shrink in my seat, knowing those whispers could be about me when they found out I would not be going either.

“Dan, I’m very proud of you for understanding the situation that your parents are in. Not every student your age has that capability,” he replied.

Glaring at the students whispering in the back, Mr. Sims spoke again, only louder.

“This year, we’re going to do things differently. The trip is not until the end of the month, so we have plenty of time for fund-raising. Each student will be responsible for bringing in at least one idea for a fund-raising drive. Bring them in tomorrow. If a student does not want to contribute to the drive, then he or she will be spending the field trip day here at the school. Any questions?”

Of course, Shelly, the most popular girl in the class, spoke up.

“Well, Mr. Sims, my parents can afford it. Do I still have to help?”

“Shelly, this is not a matter of being able to afford it. Money is not just something that is handed to you when you get older. This will be a great learning experience for everyone, whether you have the money or not.”

While walking home from school that day, I noticed three of the boys from our class talking with Danny. I worried that they were giving him a hard time, but as I got closer, I realized they weren’t harassing him. They were all just debating about the best ideas for a fund-raiser.

Although not everyone accepted Danny after that day, he won over the respect of many of us. I was especially awed by how he didn’t cave under peer pressure. For so long, I could never admit to my friends that I could not afford to go somewhere. Instead, in order to continue to fit in, I lied about why I couldn’t do things and came up with excuse after excuse.

By standing up and admitting he was poor, Danny changed my life. His self-confidence made it easier for all of us to understand that what his parents had or didn’t have did not determine who he was. After that, I no longer felt I had to lie about my family’s situation. And the funny thing was, those who were truly my friends stuck by me when I finally let them get closer.

And Danny, more because of his courage and honesty than his great looks, is someone I will never forget.

~Penny S. Harmon

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