Monday, May 15, 2006


Yesterday, the kids and I went to the Appalachian Festival here in town. I'm not a fan of bluegrass music, but my parents said they had lots of things to see and do other than listen to twangy hillbilly music.

It was pretty cool. They had colonial artisans doing things like rope-making, carpentry, basketweaving, carving, pioneer children's games, and a few blacksmith shops. At one of the carpentry shops, a woman caught my eye. Not because of her beauty, or unusual dress, but because of her skin. She had been horribly burned. Her head looked like a big white balloon with holes where her eyes, nose, mouth and ears belonged. At first I thought it might be Sharon Everett, who survived a horrifying car fire. But looking at her picture, I know it couldn't be her- the lady at the festival had more severe burns. (And if you followed the link, you'll see a picture of Sharon Everett in 2004, 4 years after the fire, and a picture of the car she was pulled from).

Burns are devastating, as any burn patient will tell you. They are extremely painful, and often disfiguring. I've known several burn patients, and I can tell you it's not something you ever want to go through.

I tried like hell to keep Kevin from staring and making a comment. He started to say something and point, so I pulled him aside. I'm sure she saw him, but there wasn't much I could do about it by then. I told him that she had been badly burned- so bad it burned off her facial features. I told him she knew she looked different, and he didn't need to point that out. He asked why. I told him that staring and pointing out differences is hurtful, and would probably make her feel embarrassed. Again, he said why. I tried to tell him that she's probably stared at a lot and doesn't like to go out in public for that reason. Frustrated, he again said "Why? Mommy, why would she be embarrassed? She's just a person."

I about cried.
I was so proud of him.

My baby wasn't asking "why" because he was probing into her life, making fun of her looks, or recoiling in horror. My baby was honestly asking why she would be embarrassed over something as "little" as burn scars. To him, it made no difference what she looked like; he just wanted to talk to her. He's played with amputee children before, and it didn't phase him. So has Thomas. Last year Thomas had a girl in his class who was blind in one eye. The blind eye was light blue and had no pupil. At first, Thomas was a little afraid of her. We told him not to be, that she was just a child with a different eye than his. He listened (for once), and they became friends.

They say that children aren't born prejudice- it's taught. I've always tried to make sure my kids treated everyone equally, regardless of skin color or perceived disability. I think it's working, and that makes me really, really happy.


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