What I regret most about being a mean girl to kids who were different from me was brought into sharp focus at my class reunion in June.

What I regret most about being a mean girl.

Those words are both blog post title and personal confession in the wake of a conversation with an old friend at our 45th class reunion.

“Do you remember Katya Luwamala?” he asked as he sat down beside me.

“Very well,” I replied.

“Do you remember when Katya was sent home the first week of school?” my friend asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“She wore a jumpsuit to school. No one would even notice it now, but apparently it was taboo in 1965.” He paused. “You know, the girls in our class weren’t very nice.”

I knew.

“They ostracized her from then on. She was so different with her white-blond hair, her strange clothes, and lack of social skills.”

“She picked her nose and ate her boogers, too. Looking back, I wonder if she had high functioning autism. She was so smart, she couldn’t relate to other kids. But you should know something.” I took a deep breath. “I was one of the mean girls.”

He gave me a quizzical look. “You?”

“Me.”

I told him how Katya had been placed in my mother’s third grade classroom in the small, midwestern town where we lived. I was in a different section of the same grade, enduring a difficult school year among classmates who kept their distance because I was weirdly creative, poorly coordinated, and the daughter of the strictest teacher in the building. Mom encouraged a friendship between Katya and me the summer after third grade, and we played together often. Katya was unlike any friend I’d ever had–highly imaginative, well-traveled, brilliant, and a little odd. We spent hours dressing up and acting out the adventures she narrated. I loved playing with her.

To read the rest of this post, visit Key Ministry’s blog for parents of kids with special needs.