Could Have Been My Child
“But what am I?” Her eyes were glassy from unshed tears.
“You’re you. And you’re wonderful,” I tried to reassure her, but she saw the worry on my face.
My beautiful daughter: smart, compassionate, kind to all things living and not. Seriously, the kid bonded to pet rocks! And she never did fit in a box.
“There just isn’t a label for you yet,” I said as the letters of the current acronym went through my mind. None of those letters fit.
But she wanted a label. As much as she didn’t fit into boxes, she always wanted them. She would even ask me to create them for her. “Just tell me what to do,” she would say, even as a teenager. I, however, was the worst parent for that request.
“I’ll help you find your way,” I would usually say. But this time I felt lost on how to do that. She was hurting, and I didn’t know how to help.
“I love you. We all love you.”
The words felt weak. Insufficient. How well would that love armor her against a world full of hate?
That was seven years ago, and my daughter travels the country, living life, lighting up the world the best she can. There’s still no perfect checkbox for her, but she has found a sense of belonging in other ways, and she makes the world a better place.
As I listened to Anderson Cooper recently read each name of those who died in Orlando, my fingernails cut into my clenched hands as I tried to stay as resolved as he was. With each name, I thought, that could have been my child. I will hear these names. Then I saw the text message of one child to his mother. I had no words. Only emotions in a sea of synesthesia.
My heart turned to my school’s students. So many of our students are targeted – for their culture, or religion, or neurotype, or sexuality, or other reasons. Each one is precious. We open our arms to them and their families, and do what is within our power to help them find their way. And love them. Always love them.
But I find myself wondering what more we could do.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” ~ Fred Rogers