He was big for an 11 year old. He sat at the front of class, just off to the side, by himself. It was the second day of my school workshops for Children’s Book week and the last school I was visiting for the day.
We were up to the activity part of the session and the kids were working on their inventions, coming up with wild and weird ideas and colouring in furiously.
But there was the big kid off to my left, whom I’m guessing would have been on the receiving end of bullying through his school life. He sat there with a blank sheet of paper.
‘Stuck for an idea?’ I said.
He looked up and then looked shyly back down, ‘Nah, but I’m filling in the corners’.
‘That’s a good start, What kind of invention do you want to create?’
He looked back up, ‘I could draw a door.’
‘And where would you go if you went through the door?’
His eyes brightened, ‘anywhere!’
‘So it’s a portal then? If you could go anywhere, where would you go?’
‘Paris! I’d go to Paris!’
‘I like that, I’d like to go there too, when Covd19 is done with.’
‘Yes!’ and he returned to adding more elements to his invention with a new enthusiasm.
As I started to get students up to talk up what they invented, I noticed my new friend wasn’t putting his hand up. But towards the end, he’d tentatively raised his hand, so I called him up to the front.
Instead of going straight to talk about his idea, he looked directly at a boy who was sitting with some friends in the second row who had been a little boisterous during the session, and I suspect could have been the cause of the taunts and bullying for him.
But what he said next, was more powerful than any invention.
Shifting from one foot to the other, he held his gaze at the boy and said “You said that I wouldn’t have the guts to get up here. Well Blake, here I am. Here I am!”
Here I am.