The first day of school can be nerve-wracking for any kid. It’s hard enough to learn a new classroom (and have to worry about learning new, more difficult math), but finding friends can be the hardest part. You don’t even have to be “the new kid” to feel anxious; previous experiences with bullying or exclusion the year before could make even the most self-possessed kid dread the end of summer. Parents can talk with their children about ways to make new friends or reach out to someone sitting alone, but ultimately, it rests on kids’ little shoulders to do the right thing. And given how much even adults struggle to make new friends, it’s a lot to ask of children.
But one first grader came up with a simple way that almost any kid can help classmates who might feel lonely or unsure of how to make new friends. Blake Rajahn is only in the first grade, but he showed some forward-thinking compassion beyond his years when he asked his mom to make him a shirt that says “I Will Be Your Friend.”
Blake’s mom, Nikki, shared the story on Facebook. In her post, she wrote that Blake asked for the shirt ” for all the kids who need a friend to know that I am here for them.” As it turns out, plenty of people were inspired by Blake’s message. Nikki started selling the shirts via her own online store, Unfading Adornments, and told USA Today the orders have been “in the hundreds.” But online orders alone can’t measure Blake’s reach.
A mom in east Texas saw the story and offered to make her own version of the shirt for free for anyone who wanted it for back-to-school. Shelby Bowers posted in a local Facebook group saying she would customize the color and design but give the shirt away for free, and the response was so great, she had to shut off the comments. Now, she tells her local CBS station, she is making 50 shirts using her Cricut machine. Bowers was inspired by Blake, but also driven to take action because of her own experiences; she was bullied in school, and her own daughter, Harley, dealt with a bullying episode in kindergarten.
Harley even found a way to get around her school’s uniform code to let others know she wants to be their friend: She’ll proudly wear her pink version of the shirt to her school’s back-to-school night.