First, John V. Boyd had to contend with the bullies. Schoolmates hit and teased the studious 11-year-old boy for carrying books, and their taunts intensified after he was selected to attend a youth leadership program in London this summer.
Then John had to come up with $5,000 for the trip, which he did in part by sheer hustle -- growing spider, purple passion and aloe plants and setting up a table outside his home in Southeast Washington and selling them.
Now this: As he was planning for his departure -- scheduled for Wednesday -- terrorists attacked the city that he hoped would provide a respite from the stress of being young, gifted and misunderstood.
Asked on Friday what he knew about the situation in London, John told me, "I turned on the TV and all you saw were people crying and bleeding. I couldn't deal with it. I had to go into Grandma's kitchen because it's peaceful in there."
Of course, District residents -- especially juveniles -- have their own brand of terror to deal with. In a city of roughly 554,000, there were 197 homicides last year; the London region, which has about 7 million people, had 204.
This year, as of Friday, there had been 91 homicides in the city. The Capitol View neighborhood, where John lives, is about a mile from the District's crime-ridden border with Prince George's County, which has had about 86 homicides so far.
For 20 days starting Wednesday, John will get away from all of that. He'll join an international group of youngsters in England and Scotland for the People to People Student Ambassador Program, a leadership program started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. (Washington area residents read about his efforts and donated generously to the cause.) The participants will visit the British Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge and Oxford University, among other places. A visit to movie sites from the Harry Potter series is also planned, along with a ride on the London Eye, the world's largest Ferris wheel.
One of the program's missions is to show young people that what they have in common as human beings far outweighs any differences based on nationality, ethnicity or religion. John sees no reason why the mission can't be accomplished.
"We don't need all of this fighting, all the gunshots and wars," he said. "Why can't everybody just live and let live?"
John, now a sixth-grader, had distinguished himself during the past school year at C.W. Harris Elementary in Congress Heights, where he earned ribbons for citizenship, attendance and wearing his uniform correctly every day. He won awards in his school's Geography Bee, Black History Bee and Science Fair.
His extracurricular activities included collecting food for Thanksgiving baskets and distributing them to the needy; picking vegetables at various farms and taking them to food banks for distribution; and donating his toys, clothes and books to needy children.
His mother, Marie Ellis, beams with pride when she speaks of him. "This is something that he wanted, and he has worked very hard for it," she said. Ellis, a single mother, works as a counselor with the Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative. Her job is to help reunite families that have been torn apart by drugs, crime and other misfortunes. When one of her friends was about to have a child taken from her and placed in a foster home, Ellis adopted the child herself.
"I think having all of those kids in London, behaving themselves, showing that they can get along, is a good antidote to terrorism," she said. "Children are the future. And if we can teach them how to get along, then the future ought to be brighter than the present."
Letting John go so far for so long "doesn't scare me too much," Ellis said. "We've been going over the rules: Be alert; listen to whoever is in charge; you can't be running your mouth or playing around because it may cause you and others to get hurt."
Any apprehension that John may have about the trip, however, quickly dissipates when he talks about what he plans to do once he arrives.
"I'm going to try to make those furry-headed palace guards smile," John said.
He may not get them to smile, but his delight at having finally made it to London will almost surely warm their hearts.