Reacting to Differences

 

Have you ever caught yourself staring at someone else?

I know what it is like to see someone in church or somewhere else and take notice of a feature that isn’t characteristic of the average person. I tend to assume they have special needs or were involved in some sort of accident. In each instance it’s strange but my mind automatically begins to wander.

  1. Are those burns on his face? Was he a rescuer? Did he start the fire? Was he the victim of a crime?
  2. Awe poor baby. I wish I could take it away so she could be just like the rest of the kids.
  3. He is such a cutie. I wonder what kind of condition he has.

Did I mention that I am still staring as I process these thoughts?  I glance around and notice that others are staring as well. Then the unthinkable happens. I’m discovered.

Do I turn my head and pretend I wasn’t staring? Do I wait until they are no longer looking so I can point them out to someone else and ask their opinion? Or, do I smile at them and wave? Perhaps even go over to greet them during the break.

I can tell you from experience that the latter is the best choice. The only thing worse than discovering that someone is staring at you or your child and them pretending that they weren’t is to find that they are also pointing out the differences to someone else. But, it is understood that curiosity is part of human nature so what are we supposed to do?

Simply don’t hide it. Become uncurious.

Those who are different or are the parents of children who are different are fully aware of it. They know that you are curious. For most, it really is okay that you are inquisitive.  We know that people are interested in things that they are not familiar with. We can remedy that by becoming familiar or becoming educated about it.  Dare I suggest that you walk over and introduce yourself? Bring your children too. The earlier they are exposed to the vast array of differences among people the easier it will be for them to understand and find compassion and friendship.

My son has a form of dwarfism. With his specific type, one of the characteristics is little or no hair. This has led to some stares and of course, a few people thinking he may have a form of cancer. I’m aware of this but I don’t make it a point to explain this to everyone simply for lack of time and energy on my part. However, on many occasions I have been approached by wonderful people who have come up with witty ways to approach me and my son and still quench their curiosity. I’d like to share them with you:

  1. I saw you from across the room and I must say you stand out in the crowd. I took that as God’s way of saying that I should get to know you better.
  2. I believe when someone captures my attention the way you have that I should commit to pray for them. Is there anything specific I can ask God for on your behalf?
  3. I apologize for staring. I became smitten and couldn’t stop. Tell me about my new love…
  4. Ma’am. I’m sorry. I know you caught me staring and I shouldn’t have. I was just interested to know what condition your son may have.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. –John 8:32

I was in no way offended by any of these people or their words. In fact, it spoke volumes to me about humanity. We were all set free from an uncomfortable situation. I have in turn begun to do similar things when I become curious about someone else. Not once have I ever been shunned or turned away. Most people would prefer to share their story than for someone else to assume and never ask for the truth. I don’t want someone praying for my son’s cancer to be healed if that isn’t what he has. Likewise, I won’t be praying for the burns on that man’s face which actually turned out to be skin grafts because he was wounded by shrapnel in Afghanistan. I also won’t call Carrie a poor baby anymore now that I know how blessed her family feels to have her and just how happy and innocent she truly is. And Alex, he actually has no condition. It turns out he was wearing his cousins leg braces because he wanted to be a robot.

More often than not, I have found that people are interested out of a genuine concern for the other person. That is always welcome. 

©2009, Amy Bayliss

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Married to her best friend and “main squeeze,” Amy Bayliss is a 4th year homeschooling, co-educating mom to three boys who loves to celebrate life to the fullest and she enjoys writing about the pearls of wisdom God delivers to her soul.

Amy is the co-owner of Heart of the Matter Online and Internet Cafe Devotions. You can also visit her at her website: In Pursuit of Proverbs 31 and her personal blog: AmyBayliss.com

6 comments for “Reacting to Differences

  1. March 1, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Thank you for this insightful article. I often don’t know what to do. I’m curious but I don’t want to be rude. While I’ve never pointed out the person to other, I confess I’m guilty of looking away and pretending I wasn’t looking. Shame on me.

  2. Danette
    March 1, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    I guess I probably ask about what someone has more than the average person, because I’m a nursing major. I am very curious about illnesses and conditions. I’m glad to know that people tend to not mind!

  3. March 1, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    I LOVED this article & this is so true! I myself am curious without the gumption of approaching someone.

    This article gives me the courage (& the words) to come out of my shell! Thanks AMY

  4. March 6, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    I love the idea of approaching with tact. Great article, Amy!

  5. January 10, 2011 at 6:17 PM

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