23 November 2009
Smile . . .
"Alright . . . you two get together and smile."
My sister Lanecia was at it again with her camera--creating 4x6 memories of my daily living. I love it. Especially this time because I was sitting next to my adorable 6-year-old friend A.
After Lanecia shot the image, I heard A say proudly, "I didn't show my teeth."
Lanecia confirmed that A did not fully smile or show her teeth in the photograph. So I asked her why she didn't show her teeth, and A just shook her head. I couldn't leave it at that. My sweet A had a beautiful smile; it was bursting to get out of her body. Why would she purse her lips and keep it hostage? Sure, her teeth aren't perfectly straight. Some of them are even rotting just a little.
Her family, refugees from Burma, have done the best they can to establish themselves in a new country, culture and language. A and her brother are smart and happy children who love reading and mathematics. They are excelling in school, which is especially amazing knowing their story. With the little bit their father makes, it's a wonder the children have clothes and food. If A has a few rotten or missing teeth out of their journey from Burma to the U.S., at least she has her life and her family. I'm sure they will get dental care as soon as they can afford it.
So I probed a bit more and asked A if the kids at school had said something to her about her teeth. She nodded yes. I asked her what they said to her. "They say my teeth are dirty," she said.
My heart sank into my stomach. How does poking fun, calling names and judging by appearance start so early? Is it nature? Nurtured by the American way? How is it that some 6-year-olds train a beautiful girl to lose her smile?
"The children at school are not telling you the truth, pretty girl," I told my sweet friend. I told her that her smile was beautiful and that it didn't matter what other people thought.
Lanecia took another photograph of us, and I think it's perfect.
May we practice peace in our words and deeds. May we always teach little girls and boys that their beauty does not depend on the lies of little kids who have been taught a bunch of lies themselves. May we smile and give others in our lives permission to smile, as well.
Great big sunshine smiles!
Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other - it doesn't matter who it is - and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other. -Mother Teresa