Alexandria Lutinski, an eighth grade student of Jennifer Hutchinson at Goodnight Middle School in San Marcos, Texas, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “What Japanese Internment Taught Us About Standing Up for Our Neighbors,” by Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz.
Tracy is part of the Japanese American community on Bainbridge Island, Washington—the first community in the nation to be rounded up and sent to concentration camps during World War II. In this story, she reflects on the meaning of the Japanese saying, nidoto nai yoni: “Let it not happen again,” and wonders what communities might do differently today to protect the civil liberties of our vulnerable neighbors.
Writing Prompt: Think about someone in your school or community who is vulnerable and may need protection or support. This person may be a neighbor or a classmate—it may even be you. Are you willing and brave enough to stand up against injustice? Describe what you would do, and how your actions might make a difference.
An Unanswered Cry for Help
I heard the door creak open as I worked on my assignment. I looked up and saw Charlie with a new kid. Charlie’s one of the school monitors; he’s the only employee at Goodnight who students talk to on a first-name basis. Our teacher had told us that we were getting a new student. She was a bit nervous as the adults exchanged words. “Hello, I’m Mrs. Recio, why don’t you introduce yourself?” my teacher said kindly as she shook the student’s hand.
What happened next shocked me.
The student’s voice was bold as she spoke, “Hello, I’m a student from Comal County. I’m 12 years old and was born September 13th, 2003.” She wasn’t scared of being new, she seemed… proud? Her voice sculpted her words like delicate clay. She resembled a teacher in her stance, her voice, and her strong, agile footsteps, as she took her seat.
Her introduction may have been powerful, but strength often fades to weakness. I noticed the tension around her. I felt the thickness of the air. The tremble of her hand as she listened to the world around her. A soft breath of air could shatter her world like a snow globe falling to the floor.
Her poetic writing brought confusion to her new teachers. What happened over the summer while I was away? The delicate faded gray designs traced onto bleached paper. Designs of hatred, evil, and war.
The year aged. I saw her slip on the ice in her mind. A mind full of creativity and growth that was locked behind by a greater force. The tremble of her hand a constant reminder of her fear. She’s running away from everything, but a force beyond her control brings her back.
Why don’t I help her?
I can’t. She’s beyond help that she can ask for. I want to help her. I’m the voice trapped inside her mind. Yes, I am the girl. The strong voice that faded into a dark hole of despair. I begged for help, but, of course, the smart and intelligent girl couldn’t need help. She’s too good for depression. Too good for anxiety.
Was she really too good for it now?
I feel the burning embers of a fire deep in my heart, the perfect snow globe that shatters on the floor. Icy blood meanders through my body like a jellied river.
Lost tears never dance down the pale skin of my face. Pale wrists never see the fresh crimson cuts from a razor. Dark brown strands of hair never feel the delicate weave of braids.
Swimming through wave after wave of emotions. Anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety. Day after day of torment and war inside my own mind breaks me down to ash on the ground.
Black and White
Black and white
But really are they colors?
One absorbs all light
One reflects all light
One is dark
One is light
Some people see
Only these two shades
Others see all
Reds, blues, and more
Imagine only seeing
Black and white
And all shades between
No bright colors
No dull colors
You can see the
Truth behind a pigment
How dull or how bright
Maybe the color tells a tale
Black and white…
Black and white…
Black and white…
—Alexandria Lutinski 12/8/16
Even though I see all colors, I can’t feel them. The brightest blues to the darkest greens. Colors show me that the world is much brighter than I am. It’s an egregious curse that I have developed over many cold years.
Being a bisexual teenager has been a nightmare. My parents are accepting, but my grandmother has tried “Praying the gay away!” Why do people deliberately hurt others who don’t fit into their beliefs? “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:31, King James Bible. If you mistreat your neighbor, then you are expressing that you want to bring others down.
So I continue my life. The outcast, bisexual teenager who just wants to have a normal life. The life many others get to live every day. My snow globe has shattered. Now it’s my turn to step out and be me. Still, there are many others trapped in their own snow globes. And they need your support and kindness. Just like I did.