For all of last week, the kids weren’t feeling so good. Jesse had a terrible cough and stuffy nose and Jennifer was complaining of stomach pain and nausea. Jennifer was not as sick at first – she was well enough to go on her class field trip – but as the week progressed, she got worse and kept coming home from school complaining of discomfort. And at first, Jesse stopped coughing so much, and I thought he was better so I stopped giving him medicine, but then it returned with a vengeance, along with stomach pain. So yesterday I took the kids to their doctor to find out what was up. Turns out they both have a stomach virus.
After we were done at the doctor’s office, we drove through downtown Eugene on our way to the grocery store. As I drove, I happened to notice these girls in the car next to me, staring wide-eyed at me. I had my hair up and when I wear my hair up, the third degree burn scars on the back of my head are visible. The fire permanently damaged some part of the hair on my scalp, so I have hair missing in the back, making my back hairline uneven. This, too, can be seen, along with the left-ear-that-is-not-an-ear (I lost my ear in the accident so the doctors reconstructed an ear for me made out of rib cartilage). Judging from the looks on these teen girls’ faces as they freaked out over my face and head, I could figure out what they were reacting to. I completely ignored them, stifled a growl and drove off. Far be it from me to stay within their view so they’d have to withstand such horror!
But, seriously, even as this was something that I’m used to by now (after over 30 years of living with these scars, I’ve seen the worst of people in how they react to my burns!), it still kinda hurt. It made me sad, you know? That there are young people out there still reacting so negatively to someone who is not “beautiful.” I know we live in a world where beauty is EVERYTHING and if you are not beautiful, people will shun you and talk negatively of you. But it saddens me that we are allowing the future generation to grow up thinking this kind of logic is okay. Why are we teaching our children that it’s okay to react so negatively to people with burn scars, deformities or even skin ailments? Why are we teaching them to think less of someone who is not so appealing to the eye?
Given that these girls were teenagers, I was reminded of one other unpleasant experience involving teenaged girls I came into contact with. Once, while I was in church, I was sitting in a pew in front of a group of teenaged girls. (And, yes, I had my hair up!) It wasn't long before I realized the girls behind me were kicking the pew I was sitting in. I turned around to let them know this was uncomfortable. They only laughed and said, “Sorry.” Then they did it again. I was so annoyed by it, I left the church. Yet I was saddened that young people could get away with being so mean to someone like that. And that, worse of all, they thought it was okay to do that!
No. It is NOT okay.
It’s rude. It’s not nice. And it hurts. Ya know? Have a little compassion for someone not as BLESSED or LUCKY as you to be so beautiful.
I am grateful that there are people I know who are not so shallow and who are kind to others no matter their appearance. These are the people I cling to. These are the people who I feel are important people in my life.
But the biggest kind of comfort I took from that experience? Knowing that my own daughter will not grow up to be like those girls. Knowing that other little girls who have accepted me will not grow up to be like those girls. And you know why? Because they know me as a person. They know me as a human being – and that’s what we all are underneath the burn scars. We’re human beings with feelings. With personalities. With hopes and dreams.
My reminder of this was reinforced after Jennifer found out about what had happened. Of course, she was irritated. She said, “Those girls!” Then she stuck her tongue out in the direction we’d driven away from. (Haha. My feelings exactly.)
I only shook my head and told her the same thing I have been telling myself for years, “There are always going to be people like that.”
She frowned and said, “I don’t like people like that.”
Yeah. Me, neither.