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National Student Essay Contest - 2nd Place (Grades 7 - 9)

Daniel Chertok
Roslyn Middle School
Roslyn Heights, New York


In your youth, nothing matters unless you can not watch morning television or your brother will not stop hurting you. Instead of worrying about world peace, you worry about what's for lunch. You are so consumed in your own little world that you could not care about petty differences like race, disability, ethniticity, or religion. Unfortunately, as you become older these differences can become an important factor in your life.

When I was in first grade, I had a friend named Alfred. Alfred was African-American. He was the only black child in my class, and I thought he was lucky for being different. Alfred and I became fast friends, and I loved his company. Everything about us was different, but special. His hair had a different smell, his skin was so dark and smooth. But inside he was just another kid on the playground.

One day I invited him to come over my house. He said he couldn't wait, but I had to pick him up from his house. My mom was very excited that we had become friends. When we got to his house, my mom went outside to meet his mom while I stayed in the car. Alfred came into the car with me within a few minutes while my mom was still outside.

"Why does your house have two doors?" I asked out of curiosity. "That's my door, and the other door is for the Johnson's. They share a house with me." He replied.

"Wow" I said. "That's so cool, you can have a sleep over every day!"

"Yeah, I guess it is pretty cool to share a house."

My mom came into the car after a few minutes. She told us that we had to be home by four, which means we have three full hours at my house. We drove home, and when we pulled into the driveway, Alfred said, "Wow, I thought my house was cool, but your house is bigger than the White House! We played and Alfred went home.

The next day at school Alfred said, "I can't come over your house anymore." "Why?" I asked.

"My mom said that we were different." He replied simply. I asked him "How are we different ?"

He said sadly, "I don't know."

After that day Alfred and I slowly drifted apart from our friendship. We were in different classes in second and third grade, and we barely talked. In fourth grade I was excited to find out he was in my class, but he wasn't there the first day. The next day came, the next week rolled around, but still no sign of Alfred. I asked my teacher towards the end of September where Alfred was. She said with no expression, "He moved away."

Friendship is something that can be strong enough to break the barriers of prejudice. Even when you believe in your heart that what you want is right, it is not always granted to you. When something or someone gets in the way of friendship it can split you in to two very different people; the obedient and the defiant. If I would have been defiant I could have worked our problems out and still be friends with Alfred, but since I chose to be obedient, it cost me a friendship.

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