Stacey Gagnon knows that her son, Joel, looks different. She’s used to enduring the strange looks, audible whispers and brutal questions about her son who was born with a craniofacial impairment. As a result, he’s missing an ear and some bone structure in his face.
She knows her son looks different, but being different has yet to become easier. And on this particular day, it actually “hurt.”
The “Ransom For Israel” Blogger recently penned a post about her experience at a new church, and she has a plea for all parents on behalf of her son.
“The church dismissed for children’s church and I walked my three youngest back to the meeting room for children,” Stacey writes. “As we walked in the room, there were four tables set up filled with kids. The minute we walked inside, the room became silent and every child stared or pointed at my son, Joel.”
As she stood at the front of the class, Stacey could see every eye on her and every mouth wide open at the appearance of her son.
“I stepped in and was about to address the entire class about differences; but then I stopped. I stopped and looked to the back of the room where my son had fled to hide. He had buried his head in his arms because you cannot hide in plain sight. My heart sank and the room remained silent as I walked back to Joel.”
As she touched her son’s shoulder, his teary-eyed face looked up at her “with shame.” Stacey knelt down next to her son and asked him if he’d like to leave. Relieved, he replied, “yes,” and fled the room.
“I held him in my arms during church and he drew ‘Joel loves Mom’ on my palm. Tears welled in my throat. My beautiful and loving son deserves so much more than stares and pointing. And I thought about what I didn’t do in that room today.
In the past, I have always stepped into the role of teacher to educate kids. This has happened before, and I would step in and talk about differences, but today I did not. Today, I did not teach someone else’s kid because I was too busy holding my broken-hearted son.”
Her heart-wrenching post calls on all parents to educate their children about the differences of others. Her son looks different, but he has feelings just like every other child.
“So I ask all parents this, teach your children. Teach your children that many people look different. Show them pictures of people who look different. And then explain that it is not okay to stare at someone that looks different, it’s not okay to point. Teach them that my boy is the same on the inside as your child is. He loves Dodge Ram trucks, and Minecraft, and digging in the dirt. He loves ketchup, but does not love broccoli.
And mostly, he does not like people staring or pointing out that he looks different. I don’t think he needs this pointed out, it’s something he lives with everyday.”
Stacey says the experience at church that morning did not leave her angry, or even upset at the children who unknowingly caused her son pain.
“I think no one has ever taught them. And so this post is asking you to take a moment tonight and talk about what to do when you see someone that looks different.”
She wants everyone to know that “a beautiful person is found with the heart; not the eyes,” and understanding that starts at home with mom and dad.
Her words have touched thousands and resonated with people across the Internet. May they be an inspiration to have a different kind of conversation with your kids today, and talk to your family about how perfectly different God made each one of us.