Throughout life we come across many people, some who influence us in negative ways, and those who influence in good ways, often changing our complete outlook on life. For me, it took the struggle of one of my best friends to open my eyes. I only wish it wasn't too late to thank her.
I grew up having more than the average kid. My parents bought me nice clothes, stereos, Nintendo games, mostly everything I needed and wanted. They supported me in everything I did. At that point in my life I was very involved with figure skating. I never cared how much of our money it took, or how much of my parents' time it occupied, all I thought about was the shiny new ice skates and frilly outfits I wanted. Along with my involvement in soccer, the two sports took most of my parents' time, and a good portion of their money. Growing up with such luxuries I began to take things for granted. I expected things, rather than being thankful for what I had and disregarded my parent's wishes, thinking only of myself. Apparently my parents recognized my behavior and began limiting my privileges. When I didn't get what I wanted I got upset and mad at my parents somehow blaming them for all my problems. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't a bad kid, I just didn't know how else to act. I had never been exposed to anything less than what I had and didn't realize how good I had it.
Regina Maywack lived just down the road from me. Before 5th grade I never knew who she was. As the year progressed we got closer and closer. Regina was extremely talented. She was, in my mind, a genius; she loved school and always did well. She was also blessed with athletic ability. Something I respected since most other kids we knew weren't involved in sports. No matter what day it was I always went to school knowing that Regina would be there with a smile on her face. It seemed as though she didn't have a care in the world. There were days I would show up mad at something my parents had done, or at something that hadn't gone my way, and she would just look at me with those honest eyes and tell me to be thankful for the good things.
It wasn't until the summer after fifth grade that I found out about the real Regina. I was walking to her house when I heard screaming and yelling. I stopped and realized that the screaming was coming from Regina's house, and it was her mom yelling at her. She was saying the most awful things I had heard, I couldn't believe that someone could be so mean, especially to their own daughter. Nevertheless, Regina was at my house the next morning, smiling from ear to ear. Later in the day I noticed a bruise on her arm. I doubted that it was related to the incident the day before, but curiosity got the best of me and I asked her about it. "Mom just gets mad sometimes. Everybody gets mad sometimes, right?" That was the last either of us said about the subject.
Two weeks later, on a Monday night, was the most terrible night of my life up to this point. It was my mom who had to tell me the news. She sat me down and very calmly told me that there had been an accident and my best friend hadn't made it. After I got past the devastation, my whole view on life completely flipped. I was thankful for everything I got and all of my parent's support. Sometimes I went overboard in my display of affection and became annoying, but I had realized how important everyone was to me and I was terrified of losing them.
I didn't find out until almost two years later that Regina had not died in an "accident". Her mother beat her to death. I wonder how many people cringed upon reading that sentence. The majority of people in our society, ignorant and self absorbed, will choose not to believe it and will brush it off as if it is no big deal. And that is the reason so many children are abused. People are too afraid to speak out, to dirty their hands with someone else's dirt, so they disregard it and walk on, telling themselves it isn't happening. Perhaps if everyone had gone through the same experience, they too would have some compassion.
I only wish that Regina were still alive today, even just to see who I've become, all thanks to her. It's terrible that it took the life of my best friend to get me past my selfishness and thanklessness, and although I am so grateful that I have become someone better, it isn't worth the price I paid. I would give it all back in an instant to have one more day with her.