We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofDanilo de Oliveira Soares

When I was 15, I moved to the United States. But soon after I fell into melancholy for two weeks. Depression is too heavy a word, but it was a melancholic moment of my life. I did nothing but stay in my bed for days, sometimes crying, because I missed my family and friends. I did not know if I was welcome in my new community. But with time I slowly got better.

After some time, I started to work in a restaurant. At first I began to feel welcome. Colleagues seemed amazing, they had patience, and were funny. I laughed and learned a lot. But I soon heard about one employee who I heard was very disrespectful to everyone. I soon found myself on the same shift with him. 

He didn’t seem to want to do his job. He took long breaks to smoke. He took more breaks than anyone else and we were only allowed to have one.  He often listened to music, and he did not listen to other employees when they spoke to him. When others tried to correct him, as soon as they turned he would give them the finger. 

I also began to hear him whispering bad things specifically about me. That made me feel less welcome and also uncomfortable. I tried to avoid him as much as I could. 

Then one Sunday evening, he was doing his job very slowly and I was really occupied doing my work. “Kid, come on help me here” he commanded. “I'm really busy working,” I replied. The manager told him to work faster for the rush hour. But then he looked directly at me. “It is not my fault,” he yelled. “It is the fault of this estupido!” As our shift continued, he got even more angry and rude towards me and others. I stayed quiet. I am a shy person. He was also intimidating and I worried what he would do if I spoke out. But the verbal attacks made me feel really bad. That day felt like an eternity.

I will not lie, I cried a lot at home that night. I don’t care that society might say men can’t cry because they need to be strong. I disagree. I think if you cry you are not weak, but courageous enough to go against what society imposes on you about what is a strength and what is a weakness. I needed to express myself. The way I found to express myself was crying. 

I didn’t want to go back to work or see that person again. I decided to hand in my two week notice. For the following week the same employee was even more rude to me. Then, the day before I left, he was fired. 

On my last day, my manager called me to his office. I thought that I was in trouble. “I want you to  know that harassment and discrimination is not allowed here. My employees are like my children to me, and I take care of my children.” He then told me I was employee of the month. 

His words made me feel truly welcome. 

Some time later, I decided to stop by my old workplace to say hi. I was welcomed with hugs. And my manager assured me that if I returned, colleagues would be respectful. Some time after that, I ended up going back to work at the same place. We all treated each other with respect and everything that my boss said was true. 

I felt happy again because now I was able to see and work with the amazing people I used to work with, but this time I felt fully comfortable at last.

© Danilo de Oliveira Soares . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.