I have a student who believes his 10 year old brother is truly gay and hates him for it despite how much his little brother loves him and looks up to him and seeks his approval. I think he will try to figure out a way to look past the prejudices his friends and family have blinded him with.

I have a student who slices her wrists with the needle from the pins on her bag because her father calls her a freak, and her mother doesn’t want to send her to therapy more than once a month because it’s expensive and “all for attention”, and the girl doesn’t feel like anyone cares about her existence.

I have a student who struggles with learning but has the biggest heart in the world. Girls laugh at him for the bad poetry he writes for them from the very depths of his soul. They talk about him behind his back and call him stupid.

I have a student who can’t read, but her father just believes she is “lazy” when it comes to schoolwork.

I have a student who takes so many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications that she shakes constantly, and her “friends” tease her behind her back for wearing too much make up.

I have a student who has been disowned by his father, and gets in trouble for having a sharp temper.

I have a friend who will be the world’s greatest mother, but who has been stripped of her ability to experience pregnancy for reasons beyond her control.

I have a friend who lays her life down every day for the students she works for, who has been denied the help and support she needs to continue to help kids to learn and grown and survive high school.

I have a friend who finds the light and life in everyone she meets, who is constantly ignored by the one she loves most in the world.

I have a friend who always accommodates those around her, who never wants to cause a problem, who never wants to stir the pot, who finally was able to admit that her innocence and loving bright nature had been taken advantage of when she was molested as a child.

I have a friend who has given everything of herself to do what is right and to raise her children and teach her students what life is truly worth living for, who has sacrificed her health for the good of others, who will lose her eyesight in a few years before she gets the chance to see the world she so desperately wishes to explore during retirement.

I have a friend who is so damaged by the way society portrays beauty that she cannot see how incredible she is enough to take a chance and be loved by someone who truly deserves her.

I am surrounded by situations that are unfair. The number of things that are unfair in the lives of my students and my friends is enough to make anyone a pessimist, but I refuse to become one (at least for today). Instead of focusing on the pain and the incredibly shitty hand the universe has dealt the ones I care about so deeply, I choose to see the strength in those who continue to carry on, power through, ask for help, get help, live.

To my friends and my students: thank you for your inspiring sense of courage to continue to live in a world that has challenged you in such awful ways.