There’s something absolutely beautiful about meeting a stranger. I don’t mean just a smile or handshake between two people that don’t know each other, I mean that moment where you stop thinking about yourself and you turn your complete attention to the other person because you want to actually “know” them, and in that moment you realize they are doing the same because they want to know you, so at the end of no matter how brief the meeting, you have left a piece of yourself with the other person and them with you.
Last night I had one of those moments. Unexpected and in-between many smiles and handshakes a stranger asked me about Girl Noticed, and when she asked I knew she really wanted to know. Wanted to know what was this Girl Noticed thing her friend and my friend were telling her about, no insisting she should check out. Yes, I have awesome friends who aggressively and passionately share my project when I’m too humble to share it myself.
I told her what led me to this project and I knew she immediately “got it”. I could tell by the look in her eyes and the expression on her face as I spoke about it, and that’s when she left her piece with me.
She asked me if I noticed by the way she spoke that she was hearing impaired. She told me that her and her brother were both hearing impaired since childhood, and she described the huge apparatus she had to wear around her neck with hearing aids in her ears as a child. She didn’t go into detail about the anguish this brought her as kids who didn’t understand teased and bullied her, she didn’t mention how being different from her peers made her feel inadequate and small. What she did tell me was that the principal in her school had her mom on speed dial because fights were inevitable and often. Her mom, from South Ozone Park Queens, NY, I could completely picture in my head. I imagined immediately a no-nonsense woman that was not going to have her daughter feeling sorry for herself. She told me her mom after having once again retrieved her from the principals office sat her down at their kitchen table. Yes the kitchen table, the place everything serious in your childhood happens, and we’re not talking meals, and she asked her 4th grader, “If you could have any other handicap what would you trade your hearing impairment with?”
I can only imagine that angry, upset little girl trying so hard to think what would it be? There has to be something better than this? But of course as she went through a list in her head, blind…no, crippled…no, she could not think of anything.
What are you in the 4th grade? 10 years old? This 10 year old had already learned the lesson, this is what life has given me, and I will take what I have, be who I am. My disability does not define me, it cannot destroy me and I could tell by how she told me her story that it had strengthened her.
We all have challenges. They just aren’t as obvious as my new friend’s were. Some of us are socially disabled, some of us struggle everyday with our appearance even though were not 10 years old wearing an apparatus around our neck as jewelry. How will we let those challenges define us? Or will we be strengthened by them?
My new friend, I notice you.
Love from Girl Noticed.