source: | 2000 Games, Devotions, Themes, Ideas and more for Youth Work
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Overview: Short stories – stories for children and teens

Subject: Friendship


My parents were strangely astonished by the whole story. They simply couldn’t believe that their seemingly honest and quiet son had suddenly become a criminal. As I ended up in a juvenile detention centre they became aware that they should have been there for me more, but it was too late.

I needed many months before I realised the mistakes I had made just to have some friends.'

Friendship at any cost

Manuel S. (16) reports: ’I have always been pretty quiet and shy; I simply found it difficult to integrate myself in society. I never took part in any discussions because I did not have the courage to stand up for my opinions. Apart from that I never had the capability to articulate myself properly so I would never have been able to clearly substantiate an opinion. Sometimes I was simply lacking the information to have a certain view and to stand up for it. And that was the thing really: I didn't even have my own opinion, I just adapted myself to suit person I was talking to.

Obviously I couldn’t justify other people’s opinions either and I therefore kept as much distance as possible from all discussions and kept out of the way of disputes. I was actually quite happy like that because I would have never had the energy to argue with anyone about anything. I played the chameleon and just kept changing my face to suit the others around me. I never had any conflicts. Only one thing really bothered mer: I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t belong to a gang or any other group.

I suffered inside

It was not difficult to explain: others thought that I was totally boring. There was nothing special or interesting about me; I always kept quiet in the background during discussions, I did not take part in any particular sport. There was simply nothing about me which would encourage others to become my friend. I didn’t show it on the outside but deep down inside I suffered a lot. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters and my parents were so busy with their jobs that they hardly took any notice of me. They had had problems in their marriage for a while so my parents had their own worries.

I had nothing which I could hold onto for support. If I had had a friend who had accepted me the way I was it would have given me some self confidence. School kept me distracted from most of my problems but I was not a good scholar. I always had difficulties, in class work and generally during courses, expressing myself. However one day it would become very different. This sudden change in my life came so fast that it swept me away without me having any time to think about it.

It began in the disco

It was Saturday evening. I sat at home and was bored to death. Obviously I had enough to do for school but I would not talk myself into doing it. Who sat at home on a Saturday evening and did homework anyway? The normal thing to do on a Saturday was to go to the disco, meet friends and enjoy life but I didn’t have any friends to enjoy myself with. The strange thing was that it annoyed me more than usual on that day. I had often heard from classmates that they usually went into a disco called JetSet. If they would only take me with them!

A sudden thought went through my head: If they wouldn’t come to me I would have to go to them instead. Maybe my classmates would take more notice of me if I suddenly turned up at JetSet. Maybe I would get to know someone new or whatever. Anyway, I suddenly had the urge to throw myself into an unknown adventure. It was time that I came out of my hiding place. I couldn’t sit around at home forever and wait for someone to bother about me! I had to do something now.

I determinedly threw on my best clothes and let the house in a good mood. My parents weren’t at home as usual and I had no idea with whom and where they were but I could have cared less at the time.

As I reached JetSet I got in without any problems, paid the entry fee and moved towards the middle of the disco. There was hardly anymore space on the dance floor and lots of other youths of my age were sitting in small groups around little tables. In one corner some boys were playing pinball and such. I had a look around to see whether I know anyone there and discovered two of my classmates at the bar. They were standing around with five other older boys who I didn’t know. Although I was so determined to act a bit more extrovert today, I simply didn’t have the courage to go up to them and say "hi!" and start a conversation.

Just don’t look uncertain

I headed towards their direction; maybe my classmates would see me and start to talk to me. I acted as cool as possible hanging about at the edge of the dance floor and around the bar area stopping every now and again to throw a casual look at the people dancing. I hid just how unsure I really was with my cool behaviour. I didn’t know if worked or not. At some point as I stood near to the bar I suddenly heard how someone behind me called out: "Hey, Manuel!" and I saw Bernd, my classmate, waving to me.

Obviously I went over straight away. "What are you doing here then?" Bernd got straight to the point. It was clear to see that he had reckoned with anyone else but never with me. I had become very brave because at least Bernd had recognised me and so I answered quite casually: "I just wanted to see what goes on around here."

We slowly got talking. I really surprised myself that I could talk so easily with my school friends. Maybe it was because of the good atmosphere in the disco but it was probably the fact that Bernd and Stefan were paying attention to me at all. They found out that I could actually be quite interesting. We talked the whole evening long about loads of things like school, parents and such and I slowly got to know Stefan and Bernd’s five friends.

I felt very comfortable. I was finally with other people and I managed to adapt myself well. I laughed with them at jokes and drank one after the other becoming funnier and funnier. At some point we squeezed ourselves onto the dace floor and coolly moved around to the great music. I would have never danced like that before. I would have felt so awkward and ridiculous but it was different today. The feeling of being in a group gave me power and self-confidence and I moved myself in time to the music just like the others.

Everything was fun

A little after midnight we all left the disco together without a specific aim. I had quickly gotten used to my new gang and they treated me just like an old friend. We were messing around and shouting on the way home and I joined in. I some point we came to a little abandoned shopping centre. Christian, my new friend, suddenly pointed out a row of cigarette and chewing gum machines.

"Hey", he called "we haven’t broken into anything in ages! We’ll be getting totally out of practice, man!" and Sebastian, another one of my new friends, thought that a bit of cash would be quite handy too and was already hunting around for some useful items like pocket knives, screwdrivers and the such. With expert tricks, they managed to take the machine apart and had almost managed to get to the money. I helped them as much as possible and it was a lot of fun.

Deep down in my conscience and distantly aware, I knew that I was could be punished but I hardly paid it a thought. I felt so strong and certain with my friends and it made me proud that they had accepted me as a full member of the group. I also felt the trust which they placed in me. They were quite happy to let me join in without being scared that I would drop them in it. I never abused their trust. My friends proved to be professionals when it came to breaking open a vending machine and everyone received part of the booty.

Me too; even though I had hardly helped at all. None of us seemed to have any feeling of guilt. We looked at it as fun and a sort of a rush. I didn’t really have a bad conscience either. My friends didn’t allow the feeling to crop up at all. They made such an impression of certainty that this rubbed off on me as well.

Friendship above everything

After this first „crime” I didn’t waste any thoughts on it. I could have left the group but I didn’t want that. I spent all of my time with Bernd, Stefan, Sebastian, Christian, Andy, Georg and Moritz. I forgot everything else because of this friendship. I had never had any friends in life and I saw it as a fantastic gift which I was not prepared to give up. Obviously we got up to stunts like this again.

Breaking into vending machines was fun at first but it soon became routine and I slowly turned into a professional. I was never caught doing anything. We soon had a good organization and the vending machines were not enough anymore. It didn’t take long before we broke in somewhere for the first time. We felt very sure of ourselves because we had planned everything perfectly again. We also took on another three boys into our gang. The new ones knew all about alarm systems and “intruder” doors. We became an unstoppable team.

And I still felt comfortable with the whole thing. I finally had a place where I belonged and there were people who accepted me and appreciated my abilities. The fact that my talents were somewhat questionable didn’t even occur to me at the time. Our break-ins were very careful for a while but at times we would have more of a routine, became more confident and therefore over-confident.

The stumbling block at school

At some point we also made mistakes. We broke into a school and took almost brand new televisions and video recorders with a value of 10000 Euros. We were so unbelievably certain that no one would look for clues, fingerprints or anything else. We messed around and even sprayed each other with fire extinguishers for „fun“. We felt so strong and simply unstoppable.

It was obvious that it could not go on. I cannot remember how the police actually caught up with us. The guy who we flogged the stolen equipment to probably informed them and we couldn’t exactly convince the police that we had made so much money with holiday jobs and babysitting. That would have been laughable.

The insight came in prison

My parents were strangely astonished by the whole story. They simply couldn’t believe that their seemingly honest and quiet son had suddenly become a criminal. As I ended up in a juvenile detention centre they became aware that they should have been there for me more, but it was too late.

I had always wished for the right friends and once I had them, nothing else mattered. Friends were important to me and not the things which actually connected us. Maybe I should have come across the idea earlier than it is better to have no friends at all than ones like that. I didn’t want to accept that when I first went into the detention centre and I stuck to my friends because it was the only thing I could hold onto at the time.

I needed many months before I realised the mistakes I had made just to have some friends.'

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