Stare Yes, Whisper Not

Ezra long jump

I met the most unusual little boy. True, he was born with a deformity, that much was obvious. But that wasn’t the most striking thing. As he ran around the room on one prosthetic leg, it became clear how much he loved sports!

When he played basketball with his friends he completely forgot about his disability, he said. The painful reminder would come later that night when his back would hurt severely after running around on a prosthetic the whole day.

The most unusual thing about the boy was his power to transform. Transform opinions, shatter limitations, answer questions. The hardest thing about his life, he said, was not overcoming the limitations his deformity imposed or the looks he got from people.

Looking was OK, he said, it’s understandable that when we see something for the first time, we take a closer look, we even stare. That’s why at the beginning of every school year, he gathers all of the new Kindergarteners and gives them a presentation, patiently explaining how he was born without certain limbs, what the doctors had to do when he was only two years old in a fifteen hour surgery to give him the best chance to have the most mobility. After that, he said, they are “cool.”

The hardest thing about his life, he said, was the whispering. When kids and adults were afraid to openly look or approach him and ask him questions. The “whispering” is more painful than the physical pain, he said, it’s what can truly make him feel “excluded.” And that’s true for all of us, isn’t it? It’s not the open confrontation, curiosity, even a challenge. It’s that small, behind your back whispering that creates boundaries, separations, exclusions.

Ezra Frech is ten years old. “Ezra” means help. He is helping all of us understand the damaging effects of exclusion and that being “different” is OK!

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