When I heard about 13-year-old Odin Camus's story, I could not help but relate to it. Some may see the online rally as a newsworthy story with a happy ending, but to many others like me this story carries a much deeper meaning. Odin's story brings to light something many young people face everyday -- bullying, loneliness, exclusion and unpopularity.
For most of my preteen and early teen years, I was that kid who spent their recesses and lunch breaks alone. While all the other kids would hang out after school, I would go home alone to watch the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I too like Odin, would send out a bunch of invitations to my birthday party only to have very few, if any, respond back.
At the time I didn't take the situation to heart but rather continued to look on the bright side. I saw fewer people at my birthday party as a chance for more cake to myself and I saw receiving no invitations to slumber parties as an escape from those dreadful 'truth or dare games.'
As I grew older, I began to understand the seriousness of the issue. My Aha-moment came along when I began to realize that 'I' was not reason why I was unpopular. For so long I believed and was persuaded to believe that the reason why I didn't have many friends was because I wasn't trying to be a friend. I was told that if you wanted someone to be your friend you had to start a conversation with them, be nice to them and invite them to hangout with you. I did all of the above numerous times and was still unsuccessful. As it turns out, making friends isn't as simple as going up to someone and asking them to be your friend. So, what was I missing? It took me a few years to realize that I may have missed a key step, perhaps the most important one.
The most probable reason why I and so many other kids get excluded is because we are or choose to be different than everybody else. We don't conform, we stand out. We don't always say what people want to hear but instead we give our own opinion.
Upon researching the word 'loner,' I was incensed by all the hatred and negativity that many articles portrayed on the issue. If we want to create a more friendly and inclusive environment for all young people, then we need to stop the stigma against loners. Hearing Odin's story and seeing the joy it brought him, made we want to start a campaign giving every lonely kid out there their own moment of fame. Odin's online birthday rally managed to make one lonely kid happy but that's just one out of the millions of lonely kids around the world. The unfortunate thing about viral campaigns is that they lose popularity just as fast as they gain popularity.
I don't want the rally that Odin's story started, to die out. I want it to continue and this time I want it to be able to reach out to more than just one kid.
That's why I'm starting the #bemyfriend campaign. The #bemyfriend campaign will aim to bring a smile to every kid who wasn't invited to a party, every kid who was excluded from a group and every kid who was left friendless. If you are or know of a child or teen who has been excluded at school and could use a little encouragement, send their story or birthday wishes along with an optional picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions will be featured on this link. With an increasing number of studies showing the risks associated with loneliness, it's time we took some positive action.
Show your support by spreading the hashtag #bemyfriend .
Let us be a friend to those in need of one and make sure that no kid is left out.