My 11 year old niece teaches me about empathy, compassion, equality and love.

Vida Mia Photography
Vida Mia Photography

I had the pleasure of spending the last few days with my niece Ari. She is 11 years old and incredibly intelligent beyond her years, she often surprises me with how compassionate, loving and empathetic she is towards others. She’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

I came into her life shortly before she turned three years old, when I started dating my now husband. I fell instantly in love with her and did everything I could to spend time with her. She continually blew me away with her wisdom, wit and insight.

Last night, we were sitting on my bed talking about going back to school. I asked her if she was excited to go back? She told me she was torn as she hated to see summer end, but that she enjoys seeing her friends each day.

I then asked her question, which I wasn’t actually sure I truly wanted to know the answer to.

Me: Ari do you ever get picked on at school?

Ari: Well, almost everybody gets picked up at school at some point.

Me: What could you possibly get picked on for?!

Ari: Well, the kids at my school think that I’m a lesbian.

Me: Why?

Ari: Because I told him that I am.

Me: Oh, I see. Are you?

Ari: No, I’m in love with Markie!

Me: Well, of course, but why did you tell kids at school that you are lesbian if you aren’t?

Ari: Well, like, one day there was a group of kids who were walking around picking on other kids. They were going up to random people and asking them “Are you gay? Are you a faggot? Are you a lesbian?!” then laughing and being gross. They walked up to my group of friends, and these mean kids actually like ME and think that I’m nice, so when they started accusing one of my friends of being a lesbian I shouted “Hey! I’m a lesbian! You got a problem with that?!”

Me: What did they say after that?

Ari: Oh, they start making fun of me and went around the school and told everybody that I was a lesbian. I didn’t care because it’s NOT an insult and if THEY think that it is, they’re probably not the right people for me to care about.

Me: You’re very smart and absolutely right, honey. So do the kids continue to pick on you about it?

Ari: I think most the kids have forgotten about it? Some of the kids did pick on me and called me a lesbian, but that’s okay with me. Actually I had to tell a few of my close friends to NOT tell anyone that I’m actually NOT gay.

Me: What? Why? I don’t understand?

Ari: Well, I’m pretty popular at school. I have a lot of friends and people know that I’m nice. I want them to know that somebody like me could be a lesbian and that they should be careful about what they say.There are probably kids at my school who are gay, but they are too afraid to admit it. But there’s totally, like…nothing wrong with it. It’s not an insult and, like it’s not something that they should judge.

>>Insert heart explosion and pride beyond words.<<