The ugly truth; how many times I have had to face that reality about myself, but none more so than when I was just a kid. Kids, as we know, can often times be cruel. It doesn’t matter if it is today or from years ago, it is just a fact of life and not a pretty one at that. Sadly enough, I cannot say that I was any different. I know I wasn’t as bad as some of the others, but I also know I wasn’t as kind as some of the others either.
One situation, especially, comes to mind when I think about such things. I was in fourth grade the first time such ugliness within me reared its head. A girl, new to the school, came into the classroom and almost immediately, some began to snicker and laugh at her behind her back. She was quite different than the rest of us which is why she stood out so much.
What made this girl different was a large reddish-purple birthmark on one side of her face that started at her eyebrow down to her chin and from the edge of her nose to almost her ear. To further make her appearance a target for insults, she suffered from a severe case of acne. Naturally, the girls in the classroom gave her condescending looks of disgust and turned their heads away to openly shun her and I pretty much did the same. As for the boys, well, the boys hurled many insulting and cruel remarks about her looks. They weren’t said directly to her but were shared loud enough for her to hear.
These taunting remarks went on for a couple weeks, all of us waiting for her to break down and cry or just not show up one day. To our surprise, she did neither one. Not seeing a collapse, one of the girls decided to talk to her to discover what she was about. I’ll never forget what transpired after that and how it changed my whole attitude and my views of others in a way that, although my parents and teachers had taught me the same, affected me for the rest of my life.
The birth defect and dark pigmentation of the girl’s skin was caused by a problem her mother had suffered while she was pregnant; and it not only affected the daughter, but also her twin brother, who died two years after birth from an irreversible birth defect. The girl’s mother had also died five years later, but before she died informed her daughter about the cruel remarks other kids were probably going to say about her and that she would have to learn to ignore them and to remember that her mother would always be with her to give her the strength to forgive them and love them just the same.
The girl’s mother had taught her to not be judgmental of others and to always look for the beauty in someone else no matter the circumstances. The girl in the classroom started spending more and more time with her and they soon became best friends. Not long after, other girls began gravitating toward her and, before long, they too, had become friends with her.
The school put on a small play and the students had to learn lines for acting parts, or words to songs to sing and some to dance. I was chosen to dance and was told to select a partner. I can’t explain why but I chose the girl with the birthmark on her face. It took only a few moments for the boys in class to start ragging on me about my choice, but I shrugged it off.
As it turned out, dancing with this girl was one of the best things I had ever done as a kid because I learned what a beautiful person she was and I felt so sad for her that her mom had died before she got to see such a beautiful daughter growing up. When I shared this with the girl, she simply nodded and told me that her mom hadn’t missed one moment of her life because she was with her every single day in her heart.
I learned about what was truly ugly and what was truly beautiful and am grateful for having learned to shed the ugly and embrace the beautiful. She moved away the following year but I’m positive she has grown to be one of the most beautiful people in the world.
November 3, 2013