Digging through a box of old photographs, I found myself in uncharted territory. Memories cascaded through my mind of my childhood.
I remember this little girl.
She loved to play in the woods. She would race the boys at any opportunity and she would win. She was the first to raise her hand in school. She knew all the answers or thought she did.
She challenged her mother on a daily basis. Secretly, she was just like her. She loved to cuddle with her daddy at night. She loved sports and was very competitive.
I remember this little girl.
She was just like all the other kids, but she looked different.
I brought the box of photos out after my son ask me a question one night. “Mom, why do you care so much about us being kind to other people?” “It’s okay to joke with people and call them names, right.”
A simple answer would have been, “Be kind because I said so.” or “Because God tells us that we have to love everyone.”
I wanted them to understand the truth. KINDNESS is huge in my vocabulary. WORDS HURT.
I wanted to show my kids the photos of me that they had never seen. The photos that showed a little girl that was just like them. She was happy and loved cartoons, riding her bike and going to school. On the inside she was just like them, she just looked different.
Questions swirled through my mind. I wanted to ask them if they saw this little girl, would they be her friend? Would they ask her to play at recess or would they ask to be moved away from her?
Would my children recognize this little girl in the photo?
It took me two months to show my kids the photos of myself as a little girl. (Some were very graphic.) I did not know what they would think of the pictures. Would they see their mommy as the same strong person? Or as the little girl that was teased in school. How could I convey to them how important this was to me?
I prayed for strength. I prayed for guidance and faith.
I finally sat down with each one of my kids and shared a past that only a few people have seen. I told them the story of a little girl who reminded me of each one of them.
Then I asked them if they would like to see a picture of her.
I told them how loved the girl was. I also told them how people who did not understand could often be very hurtful and cruel.
As I talked to my oldest daughter her response was, “Cool.” “Can I show my friends?” and “That must have hurt.” “But, can I go watch Cupcake Wars now!”
Hmm… God! I was expecting a bigger reaction…. (Sigh of relief)
My son offered a hug and compared the size of our scars. We measured them in inches. He said, “I love you.” “That must have hurt your feelings when someone would tease you.” My youngest daughter did not want to see any pictures of the boo-boos mommy had. I only showed her one picture and that was enough for her to feel sad and scared.
As I looked at each one of my children I could see myself. Ben is caring and questions everything in the world around him. He also has his mother’s competitive spirit. Natalee is fierce with infinite amounts of energy. Sophia is relentless and exercises her right to debate at every given moment.
I showed my children the pictures of myself because I wanted them to be able stand in my shoes for a moment. In order to be a kind person, you need to have be able to see what other people are going through. I want to see my kids have the ability to show compassion and feel empathy for another person.
There are many times when we miss out on the chance to meet someone great out of fear or because we think people are unlike us. I hope we all take the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones. Lean over and talk to the person in a wheel chair, say hi to a person with special needs, and be especially nice to the quiet nerdy girl or guy sitting next to you in class. Who knows, he or she may be the next President of the United States.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26