Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Beginning of Charity

Hormones are serious business. Especially when they hold you captive. Take Sunday, for instance.

Gianna wanted me to read to her. No problemo. She wanted me to read the library book she brought home from school; Dumbo. Excellent literature. I am pretty much morally opposed to books that were written based on movies, particularly Disney movies, but who am I to ruin a 4 year old's day? So we settled in to read Dumbo.

Do you remember the plot? Mrs. Jumbo gets a baby (finally) and discovers her baby has giant-sized ears. All the other elephants laugh at her baby, and then some boys from town are pulling on Dumbo's ears and laughing and then Mrs. Jumbo goes straight up postal and attacks the boys so they separate her from her baby and lock her up.

Not going to lie. I was crying.

Could be the ear thing. Touchy subject just a teensy teensy bit. Because I have to see my daughter get pointed at in the grocery store, and hear whispers...."What's on her head??? Why are her ears like that? What are those??"

Could be the mother-baby separation....gut wrenching. 60 years ago it was common for Deaf children to be sent to residential schools as young as four years old. The thought of Gianna and I being separated gives me a major stomach ache. Babies belong with their mamas.

Could be the hormones. I prefer to blame them, because when I read the story again, the next day, I was able to make it through with dry eyes.

I'll admit, though, that this goofy book brought out a good discussion between Gianna and I and about how to deal with the differences of other people with charity. Sometimes she's the one staring at another person who looks or acts different....and I can begin to teach her this most important of Christian virtues. "You are looking at that man and wondering about his legs. He has special legs, like you have special ears! Everyone has stuff, remember? Sometimes we can see it, and sometimes we can't. So we always try to treat everyone with love."

I know that when a kid is whispering to their parent about Gianna's ears, that parent probably wants to be swallowed up by the earth. It's embarrassing to walk your kid through this sort of social grace. Charity is a difficult concept to explain to a small child.

As the mother of a child with special needs, my personal preference is to encourage your child to ask his or her questions directly to the peer they are wondering about. Teach them to do this in a respectful and honest way. I'll never be hurt by watching a sincere child asking Gianna, "I was wondering about your ears! Can you tell me about them?"

I imagine not all parents of kids with differing abilities feel this way...maybe they are sick of questions. Maybe they have had a particularly difficult day. This, too, is a valuable lesson to our children to give others the benefit of the doubt.

When we encourage our kids to be charitable and to seek understanding rather than rest in fear of the different or the unknown, we help to create a world where all are loved uniquely as children of God.

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