Do you live with someone who has a physical defect? Maybe you have a family member, or close friend who has a visible difference in the way that they look. I went to church with a woman who had large purple skin discolorations on her entire body, but after the initial shock wore off, no one noticed them once they truly got to know her. Looking past the outside to who someone is as a person is an important part of life, and this daughter realized that with one shocking event.
I was in high school before I realized my father had a birth defect. He had a harelip and cleft palate, but to me he looked like he had always looked since the day I was born. I can remember kissing him goodnight once when I was young and asking if my nose would go flat after a lifetime of kisses. He assured me that it would not, but I remember a twinkle in his eyes. I am sure he was marveling about a daughter who loved him so much she thought that her kisses, not 33 operations, had reshaped his face.
My father was kind, patient, thoughtful and loving. He was my hero and first love. He never met a person in whom he could not find good. He knew the first names of janitors, secretaries and CEOs. In truth, I think he liked the janitors the best. He always inquired about their families, who they thought would win the World Series and how life was treating them. He cared enough to listen to their responses and remember their answers.
Dad never let his disfigurement rule his life. When he was considered too unattractive for sales work, he took a bike out on deliveries and created his own route. When the army wouldn’t let him enlist, he volunteered. He even once asked a Miss America contestant out for a date. “If you don’t ask you’ll never know,” he told me later. He rarely talked on the phone because people had a hard time understanding him. When they met him in person with his positive attitude and quick smile, people just seemed to take his disability in stride. He married a beautiful woman, and they had seven healthy children, all of whom thought the sun and moon rose in his face.
When I was a “sophisticated teen,” however, I barely tolerated being in the same room with the man who, for a decade, had endured me watching him shave every morning or getting ready for the day. My friends were chic, trendy and popular; my dad was old and outdated.
One night I came home with a car full of friends and we stopped at my house for midnight snacks. My father came out of his bedroom and welcomed my friends, pouring sodas and making popcorn. One of my friends pulled me aside and asked, “What’s wrong with your dad?”
Suddenly, I looked across the room and saw him for the first time the way my friends saw him. I was in shock. My dad was some kind of freak to everyone else. I made everyone leave immediately and took them home. I felt so foolish. How could I have never seen it before? Later that night, I cried. I cried because I realized that I was becoming a pathetic and shallow person. Here was the sweetest, most loving person you could ever ask for, and I had judged him on his looks.
That night I learned that when you love someone completely, but see them through the eyes of ignorance, fear or contempt, you being to understand the profound depths of prejudice. I had seen my dad as strangers did, as someone different, deformed and not normal. Not remembering that he was a good person who loved his wife, his children and his fellow human beings. He had joys and sorrows and had already lived a lifetime of people judging him on his appearance. I was grateful that I got to know him first, before others showed me his flaws.
Dad is gone now. Empathy, compassion and concern for fellow human beings are the legacy he left me. They are the greatest gifts a parent could leave a child – the capacity to love others without considering their social stature, race, religion or disabilities, the gifts of joyful perseverance and optimism. The lofty goal of being so loving in my life that I receive enough kisses to make my nose go flat.
Wow. She learned a very powerful lesson that day, and obviously it was one that she carried with her for her entire life. I hope that one day her “friends” were able to learn this lesson and realize how terrible their behavior was. We are all just on this planet to live and get along. Judging each other for what we look like on the outside is a terrible thing, but finding the beauty of who someone is can be extremely powerful.
To see more inspiring videos, articles, and uplifting content, check out Happy Tango every day! If you loved what you saw here then like and share this with the links below!