The little girl walking on the sidewalk ahead of us clutches her mother's hand, but continues to turn around and curiously survey my daughter as she sweeps her white cane back and forth with each step she takes. I smile at the little girl and continue the conversation I'm having with my daughter.
It used to bother me when strangers would stare. My daughter was born with her eye condition, Aniridia (which is the absence of an iris) and is considered legally blind. She has a number of other diagnoses due to her rare disease, and we've been living with that knowledge since she was three days old.
When my daughter was a baby I would get so mad and hurt by the stares of strangers at the mall, at the park, or anywhere else where they would notice her unique appearance. Many would remark, "Oh, somebody is tired...", "It must be nap time...", "Mommy, why don't you let her sleep?" She couldn't open her eyes very wide, so everyone would think she was sleeping when she was actually wide awake. I had even made a rule, "Six 'Sleepy Baby' comments and we leave." I remember my sister counting along with me one day at the mall. God bless her, because we hit the sixth and she was ready to go too!
I hated being stared at.
Now, however, I have come to realize that 'the stare' is my opportunity to shows God's grace and to walk out my faith. At times the stare can be my chance to educate someone about my daughter's eye condition and rare disease, and that's great. But, other times, being stared at when there really isn't time or opportunity to educate the "starer" is just a perfect time for me to cling to the Holy Spirit within me and remember what scripture has told us about the world.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5: 14 NIV
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17: 15 NIV
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 2 NIV
We were MADE to stand out. Jesus stood out too. Everywhere he went, people stared. Everywhere he went, people misunderstood him. Everywhere he went, he was an object of curiosity. This was how people were drawn to him! This was how he could teach about God's love!
So, I started to learn through God's grace and through much study of Scripture that I needed to see the "stares" as a blessing.
One tip I learned from other parents of children with the same syndrome my daughter has is to get some cheap business cards printed up with the name of the rare disease, some of the "symptoms" of it, and a website or two of where to go to learn more. This way, if there really is some educating that can take place, but there doesn't seem to be time or opportunity, I can hand the card to the person (perhaps it's even a doctor) and leave it up to them to explore more about others like my daughter.
Don't get me wrong, the stares can still hurt. Plus, there are some who are more gracious than others. But, I know that I am in good company. Jesus was always one to stand out, and that means my daughter truly is made in the image of her creator.
Pray: Heavenly Father, it really hurts when I feel like someone I love is being judged harshly by the world. Help me to remember that we called to stand OUT in this world, and NOT to just blend in to the crowd. Give my heart; and my child's heart, peace when we realize that someone may be looking at us with curiosity. Amen.