Last night, I had my heart broken.
One of the priests at my home church is being moved to Spain, and there was a big party thrown in his honor. I didn’t know him terribly well, but I was home for the weekend anyway, so I decided to go along.
We got there kind of early and were downstairs helping get things ready in the church gym when a little girl approached me.
“Is that your brother?” she asked, pointing at the troublesome 6-year-old who was, at the moment, making faces at her from across the room.
“Haha, yup.” I replied.
“Well, he’s kind of annoying, I mean I don’t mean to be rude…I’m just letting you know.”
Things that annoy me: When people say “I’m not trying to be rude.” You are being rude. Just embrace it.
Anyway, I let it go and she just started talking and talking. She asked me what “grade” I was in, and when I told her I was a senior at UGA she asked “UGA high school?”
I’m not gonna lie. This girl was weird. I felt uncomfortable enough being accosted by a complete stranger, but something about this girl was off and I really wanted the conversation to be over. This however, seemed impossible. Everyone was still upstairs in mass, I obviously didn’t have anyone better to talk to, and she did seem a bit lonely…so we sat down.
Over the course of the next fifteen minutes I learned that her dad had died in a car accident, but that didn’t break my heart. It just chipped away at a little corner.
It was ok though, because she had never really known him. He had been in jail most of her life…another corner gone.
Why was he in jail? “Oh, he tried to kill me. He gave my mom poison when she was pregnant with me. I’m really sorry I’m telling you all of this.”
The awful thing was how casually she said all of this, as if it was just a normal part of her life, and her apology was only that she had taken up so much of my time.
I wish I could say all of my awkwardness evaporated and that I took her in my arms and told her everything was going to be ok. But that didn’t happen. This was not my turf. My heart was going out to this poor little girl, but I didn’t know what to give her. I didn’t even know where to start.
But then she did it. Then she broke my heart.
“You’re really pretty.” she said. “I wish I was really pretty.”
“Excuse me?” I whipped my head around and looked so hard into those big beautiful brown eyes. I saw this poor innocent creature just begging to be loved. That’s all she needed me to give her. Just love.
“Honey, I said. You are beautiful.” She laughed and pointed at a bump on her nose, a bump which I had quite frankly found kind of cute, but I began to loathe it for what it was doing to her.
She said she used to think she was pretty, but that her cousins told her she was ugly. Her cousins, and the kids at school, and the mean kids at church, oh and I’m sure the fact that the first thing her father ever did for her was try to kill her really helps her self-esteem.
There is this soap box on top of which I am really comfortable. It’s the “all girls are beautiful” soap box. If you know me, you’ve heard the speech. You’ve probably rolled your eyes, maybe argued some…or argued a lot, a select few have actually humored me. But humoring won’t cut it. This is big. This is really big.
You see, when a girl hears the word “beautiful” it doesn’t mean, “oh you have a pretty face” or “oh you are attractive on a superficial level.” It means that you are worth something. It means that you have value and purpose just by being who you are. It means that the world would be worse off without you. It means that that you were created perfectly, that you don’t need to change a single thing. It means that you are loved. Yes…loved. It’s that simple…and that terrifyingly powerful.
So tell your mom, and tell your grandma, and your sister, and your aunts, and your cousins, and your girlfriend, and your friends who are girls and the random lady that you walk by on the street. Tell them all. Tell them that they are beautiful. Tell them that they are worth something. Tell them that they are loved. They need to hear it more than you could ever know.