How the World Receives Differences

Before my burn incident I feel like for the most part I went unnoticed. I could go anywhere and wear anything and the world would keep on spinning. When I began to step out as a burn survivor, my eyes were open to a whole new dimension. My world was now split into those who admired my braveness and those who felt disgust by it. You could see the empathy in the faces of those who were, and you could not miss the sneer from the others. My scars ran from my back to my ankles so covering them up around the clock in sunny South Florida would be suicide. I had no issue with my scars, so I dressed appropriate for season. The level of discomfort that was now imposed on me was something I never wished for anyone to bare. Yet many others did!

I was twenty-two years old when I suffered second- and third-degree burns. I had the luxury of being deemed normal for 92% of my life. Others have not been so fortunate! I had to sit back and think about all of the skin conditions that are out there and even physical deformities. People stared at my skin like it was contagious, so I could just imagine how they treated someone who for example may have vitiligo. Before becoming a part of the “different crew”, I assumed it was common sense and plain impolite not to stare at those who were dissimilar. That may have never been taught to them because I witness it everyday now. Although being stared at is now my new norm I cannot think of a way to address the issue in a manner that will find its solution. What I have heard the community say is that they simply try and get used to it. Going to places like the mall, as a new burn survivor, is always a cringe-worthy experience. People would stop and hold the stare for moments! They showed no regard for how they were making me feel. They made no attempt to hide their rude facial expressions. But before I could feel bad for myself, I thought of all the children who had to face that, and I was grateful that I gave the world Lilian. Through her eyes they can safely channel their emotions that they often times bottle up. Through her experiences they can feel less alone and more understood. I wouldn’t want anyone else in my shoes but for a moment I wish they would empathize and say “hey maybe I shouldn’t stare… what if it was me?”