Folks are a little taken aback when they see him.
Comments range from “He looks so sad!” to concerned stares. And then backing up.
Ryken has hand, foot and mouth disease. A viral disease common among children, it presents as sores on the hands and feet, sometimes the legs and backside, and in and around the mouth. Highly contagious. After the fever is gone, they’re safe to be around.
Unless you come in contact with the blister fluid from the sores. Or the child’s poop. Good hygiene helps a lot.
Walking into a room and saying, “Don’t worry, he’s not contagious” doesn’t get the reaction of concern, consoling comments or people reaching to cuddle him.
Sympathetic comments may come, but personal space becomes a necessity.
Ryken is a sweet little boy. Totally gorgeous–and I’m not saying that because he’s my grandson. His appearance has affected how people respond to him
He didn’t ask for this. He got it because big sister Isley had it. And she probably got it in Sunday school.
Not the place you’d expect to encounter a nasty little bug.
What’s interesting is this virus hasn’t changed who he is one bit. He may whimper some–sores in his mouth make acidic food painful to eat. But he’s running around the house with giggles and a plan of action.
In a culture that puts so much emphasis on appearance and what it represents, it’s easy to see why this would have people feeling a little uncomfortable. The stares make sense. People creating distance between themselves and Ryken is understood.
I don’t like it.
Who he is hasn’t changed at all. He’s still the sweet-tempered, grinning little guy who loves others–and kindly tolerates those he doesn’t know.
His appearance is off putting. He didn’t try to catch this virus. It happened.
Watching people respond to him has opened my eyes to how I often evaluate others.
Looks influence. If a person is in some way pleasing to look at, it’s much easier to connect with them.
If there’s an obvious “problem” or special need, I may not respond as positively.
How shaming is that behavior?
Culturally–to our discredit–we do marginalize those who don’t look and act “normal.”
My friend, Alexa, is 14 and one of the most genuinely kind and affectionate people I know. She treats everyone with equal graciousness. A young woman who knows how to love well.
She has Down Syndrome, not something she asked for, but a gift God gave her. He knew we’d need to see kindness acted out unconditionally. I’ve learned deeper respect and gratitude by being with her.
We’re all made in the image of God, created to reflect Him to the world. Not in the way we look, but in our character, personalities and heart responses to others.
Who we are is of greater value than how we look.
Appearance is fleeting. It can be marred by the vagaries of life.
A heart of true compassion that recognizes the value God has given all people?
I could cuddle up to that any day.
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