I spent sixteen years attending a private all girls’ school in a very well off part of Cleveland. Though all the students came from various socio-economic backgrounds the majority of my friends were very privileged. In my sophomore year of high school as everyone began getting their licenses and with that new cars. Our driveways became filled with Jeeps, Mercedes, BMW’s, and Range Rovers. It was that October when one of my friends turned sixteen and didn’t get a car we all started realizing something was up. When she didn’t receive a car for her sixteenth rather a gift card to Nordstrom’s we were all very confused. At first we thought nothing of it. As fall turned into winter and holiday shopping was coming up, this friend asked us if we could put a money limit on our yearly gift exchange. This puzzled us all, we had never brought up money in our group of friends before, and it was always a silent notion that it was not an issue. When this friend brought it up we were all a bit shocked. We put the no car thing, the gift card for a birthday gift, and this new gift exchange idea together. There was something this friend was not telling us.
We agreed upon a limit to the gift exchange and did not bring up the issue of money to our friend. After winter vacation we all returned tanned and relaxed, all except our one friend. She returned to school a different person. She was quiet and a bit distant. We soon found out from our parents that her dad’s company had gone bankrupt and her parents were getting a divorce. She had never mentioned any of this to any of us so we were all in shock. We were unsure how to handle it so we never brought it up. After finding out we started treating her differently. We went to less expensive places on the weekends, stopped talking about the new clothes we just got, and always offered to drive her places or pick her up. Finding out that one small, yet huge fact about her life made us all change our attitudes. We all realized that without even making a big deal about money, our lives revolved around it.
Before school ended our friend finally told us her situation. We knew our “research” was complete at this point. She filled in all the gaps and told us everything. Looking back at the two years after that talk we had with her and even now we still treat her differently but we definitely do not look down on her. We all have become more conscientious about what we say and have become significantly less bratty. This situation within our friend group brought us closer and showed her, and the rest of us, that each person in our group is very accepting. Yes, I admit that changing the way we acted for the reason we did was wrong but in the end I believe that our research of her situation helped us all grow up and look at the world through the eyes of everyone, not just people like us.