Project Thanks: “A Hello In The Hallway”
When Shay was 17 years old, a deep depression toppled her over.
At fourteen, her best friend died. At fifteen, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And, at sixteen, Shay’s friends – the friends in her “group,” had turned on her. They had decided – in the time it takes to snap your fingers – to shun her. When they saw her, they pretended they hadn’t. They treated her like she wasn’t there.
Shay was lonely. So lonely. A loneliness that felt like it had no end. Like being locked away in a secret room in an empty house — and nobody knows you are there.
“I wanted to kill myself. I thought it was the only way to stop feeling awful all of the time. I really didn’t think anyone would care. I convinced myself that if I did it, no one would notice.”
Shay made her decision. And, on a Friday in the spring of her senior year, she left for school knowing what she wanted to do when she got home. She went to her morning classes. She went to lunch. She went to her afternoon classes. At two o’clock, the dismissal bell rang.
Students streamed past her and out the door. She walked alone in the hallway toward her car.
It was Mr. Calipetro. He was a bus driver at her high school and a “regular sub.” He remembered that she had missed class a couple of weeks before when he was substituting in her English class.
“I noticed you weren’t in class the other day and wanted to make sure you were okay. We missed you.”
We missed you.
It was friendly, and it was kind. And it was brief. But, it’s a moment that Shay never forgot. Mr. Calipetro made her wonder, “Who else might miss me?”
“It was like a wave of realization.” If a substitute teacher that she saw only every once in a while could miss her, how much would the other people in her life care?
Shay changed her mind. She didn’t follow her plan. She kept going. Two months later, she graduated from high school. Then, she moved away.
It has been six years. But, to Mr. Calipetro, Shay would like to say thank you. Her husband would like to say thank you. And, if he were a little older, we think her son would say thank you too.
(If you are ever considering suicide, please seek help immediately. Speak to your doctor or therapist or call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.)
About Project Thanks: Readers who want to participate can email two or three sentences at firstname.lastname@example.org describing a person in their lives that they want to thank and why. You can choose someone to thank for 10,000 things or a person you met only once. But, the focus is on one story about one person. It can be a “small” thing or a very big thing. The email suggestions won’t be published. Instead, I read through the email ideas and pick ones to expand upon. Then, I set up a phone interview, talk to the reader, and write the story.
Thank you to Shay for sharing her important story and for speaking with me. I am grateful.