When Zach was three years old, he noticed that a salesperson had "brown skin" and that Mommy's friend has "skin that looks like chocolate".
It would be another 2 1/2 years before he would comment again on the differences he noticed from one person to the next. And those comments didn't come in the form of an innocent, pure, out loud observation. Rather, he was fearful; clinging to me and whispering. We have two little friends who have Down Syndrome. Aside from our initial conversation (years ago) about their brains working differently but the children being otherwise just like him -- everyone created special by God -- he has always acted like these friends are no different from anyone else. Seeing teenagers (this summer) with Down Syndrome was a different matter. Zachary was fearful because the teenagers were as big as Mommy and they are as old as our babysitter. He was confused. I explained that these boys' brains are exactly like our young friends' and their childlike behavior is a part of that. We talked about how these teenagers are just as cool and special as anyone else (in fact, they're so much fun that they don't think they're too cool to do handstands underwater or cannonballs!). As I chatted with the teenage boys, Zach began to see that they are perfectly nice and fun, and he began to play with them.
There were other discussions over the summer about people who were different in one way or another... We had one such discussion yesterday. He said, "I don't really like to play with so-and-so. He..." And he trailed off. I told him that it's perfectly normal to "click" with some people and not others, as not everyone has the same interests. And then I encouraged him to talk to me about what it is that bothers him about this other child. "Well, it's all the holes on his face." Freckles. My immediate response was, "Oh, Buddy, just wait till we park the van and you see what Mommy's got!" We parked and I asked him to come take a close look at my face. I asked what he sees and he said, "Freckles? But you don't have them everywhere!" Then I showed him my arms and pointed out the fact that my nose is practically one giant freckle! He had never even noticed.
I asked him how many kids in his class have red hair. "Three." That's not very many, is it? "No... But L has red hair and I've known her my whole life. That's not weird!" And how many have glasses? "One." Is that weird? "NO!!!" And how many with freckles? "Only one, I think." Is that weird? "I guess not... I just never saw them before. I have never known anyone with freckles." So, we spent a few minutes talking about how God took special time to put those freckles on Mommy, and the kid in his class... And how God took the time to make Zachary and Daddy with eyes that would need glasses. And how some kids are really tall, and others really small, etc... God made us all, and he made us special. Different. And it's not what we look like that matters; it's who we are in our hearts.
What some might see as a flaw, God sees as perfection.
1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."