The Unwelcome Welcomer
I’ll never understand it. I just won’t. Never in my life can I remember a time when I purposefully made someone feel unwelcome. I cannot name one time, even in Middle School, when I was presented with the option to welcome a new comer, make them feel wanted and secure in a new environment, and instead chose to ostracize them. This is so completely foreign to me, and it seems so absolutely cruel. Maybe that’s why when it happens to me, I don’t recognize the crime for what it is. Maybe because I’m so wrapped up in making everyone feel comfortable, and welcome, and wanted, I don’t realize when I’m unwelcome.
Hi. My name is Morgan and I’m a Welcomer.
I have one story in particular that, to me, is so unbelievable I actually wrote it out in short-story format to look at it from an outside angle to better understand it.
Please understand, I know I am loved! I know I am wanted. I know I am welcome. I’m not under the impression that I don’t matter, on the contrary, a Man died on a wooden cross for me 2,000+ years ago proving that I do matter, this story is just something that helped frame who I am: I am a welcomer. I am a person who goes out of my way to make sure everyone else feels welcome, wanted, and invited.
The following is a true story as depicted by what I can recall feeling during this time. Enjoy!
An Original Short by Morgan Arellanes
Perhaps the cruelest thing we humans do to each other is make someone feel unwelcome. There are stories told by prisoners of war on how the enemy tortured them, ultimately trying to break their spirit in order to obtain information. Even that, when compared to feeling unwelcome, wavers. Even though the prisoner of war goes through unimaginable tortures, it is the person who feels alone, unwelcome, and an outcast that proves the most dangerous.
Take for example, Melanie. Melanie is seventeen, and the pride of her high schools Speech and Debate team. She does well in Drama, her main event. Melanie is talkative, social, a decent student, not so confident that she’s a brat, but confident enough to shade her awkwardness to make it more endearing. She’s the type of girl who can comfortably carry a conversation.
Enter Zachery. Zachery is also seventeen; he does well in debates with his partner, whose name also happens to be Zachery. It’s not known if their confidence and defiance of social standing comes from their shared name, or from actual inner confidence gained throughout their lifetime. Regardless, Zachery #1 is cocky, and overzealous in the best of times. He’s entitled, and with that brings a sense of lordship over his peers. Zachery #2 follows suit, but when he’s on his own is rather funny, and kind.
The scenario: Zachery #1 and Zachery #2 are sitting at a table in the cafeteria, trying to keep occupied before their next debate starts. The two have milkshakes in front of them, with two red and white swirly straws sticking up front the mountain of cream. Zachery #1 is finishing eating a salad, drenched in Ranch dressing. Melanie, having just finished a round of Drama, entered into the cafeteria elated. Her round had gone very well, so well that she wanted to find someone to share in her delight. She searched the cafeteria until her eyes fell on Zachery #1 and Zachery #2. She headed their way. Melanie wanted to impress Zachery #2 with her good round; she wanted to show him that while he was an experienced and respected debater, she was also talented, and exceeded in her own ways. She thought there was a mutual attraction there, and part of her wondered if he would ask her out.
Melanie walked up to the pair, but filled with glee as she was, she failed to notices the tone of seriousness that was upon the boys faces. As she closed in she heard what sounded like a discussion about something important. Had Melanie picked up on this a second sooner, she may have saved herself from the feeling that was soon to drop into the pit of her stomach.
“Hi Zach!” she said excitedly, giving a polite nod to Zachery #1 in the process. “I just had the best round! The judge was nearly in tears, and one of the other competitors actually did cry!”
Her euphoric state lasted only a second longer. Zachery #2 was looking hard at his milkshake, careful not to meet eyes with Melanie. There was a pause, just long enough to make Melanie question herself, and then Zachery #1, having just finished chewing part of his lettuce, and with a dime-sized spot of ranch resting in the crook of his sneer, spoke.
“If you had any brains at all you would have noticed that we were actually having a good conversation, one that up until you showed up was meaningful. Now that you’re here it’s filled with air. Can you feel that? With you here we can’t have the conversation at the level it was at. There’s too much air in between us with you here.”
Disbelief shaded Melanie’s mind. She was shocked at what had been said. Forget trying to empathize, or even consider that Zachery #1 had a point. Her countenance fell, but only long enough for her to realize it. Zachery #1 had his eyes raised upward as if asking forgiveness on Melanie’s behalf for the terrible blunder she’d committed. While Zachery #2 had his eyes concentrating so hard at that milkshake the condensation on the outside of the glass was flowing horizontal, as if even the drops were trying to flee before his stare. A complete range of emotions traveled through Melanie’s core in less than a blink of an eye. This boy, this inconsiderate, arrogant, positively vile peer, for no apparent reason, dropped a bomb on Melanie. A bomb that exploded, leaving her confidence desecrated, and her pride in shambles. Her breath was caught in her throat. She’d never felt so humiliated, so utterly uninvited, so, unwelcome, in her entire life. This, she thought, is why people commit heinous crimes of vengeance. If this feeling of being unwanted was left to fester in a person less self-aware than herself, God only knows how that person would lash out.
“That was rude.” Melanie said calmly. “If you did not want my presence here you only needed to say so. I would not have been offended had you asked me to leave so that you could finish a private conversation. Instead, you chose to make me feel insignificant, and that’s a terrible thing to do. By the way, you have ranch on your face.”
With that, Melanie turned on her heel, her excitement from her Drama round had vanished. In its place was a war between feeling embarrassed, irritated, unwanted, and unimportant. Finally Melanie settled on feeling empowered. Zachery #1 was rude, and she had told him so. Maybe that will take him down a notch. Even though she wasn’t sophisticated, she knew that her response to the situation was. She’d go so far as to say it was cavalier, and that made her feel better. She hoped that in the months to come, when she would run in to Zachery #1 and Zachery #2, they would walk a little shorter. Zachery #1 would see her, and would be reminded that he had chosen to make someone else feel unwanted and inferior; in order to raise himself up, he chose to put someone else down. Hopefully that reminder would stick in his heart long enough until he learned what it’s like to feel the way he made others feel.
Melanie never did speak to Zachery #1 again. She never made a point to approach him, and when he happened to be partaking in the social circle that she was in, she chose not to react. She never let Zachery #1 make her feel unwelcome again. Eventually, toward the end of the Speech and Debate season, she had mastered the art of not letting it affect her in any way. She truly was over it. Zachery #2 tried to get Melanie alone, to see if he could rekindle what measly flame had been between them before, but the flame was out. Melanie considered Zachery #2 to be her friend, and yet he had done nothing to aide in her discomfort and exile. This was somehow worse than being that cause of discomfort. It’s easy to get over someone who is rude, but if you think of someone as your friend, it’s more personal, and it takes longer to get over the hurt. Melanie had lost respect for him – and with it her attraction to him.
At the final Speech and Debate meet of the season, Melanie won in her event, taking 1st place as well as qualifying for a trip to the National Tournament to compete with kids from all over the country. Zachery #1 and Zachery #2 were defeated in their first round of debate, they fizzled out, and Melanie? Well, Melanie moved on. She moved on.