The following post is reprinted with permission from Joe Brooks, a student at the University of Mary Washington. He wrote this essay for his sociology class. We thought is was fantastic and wanted to share it with our readers!
One thing I learned early in life and strongly believe in is that you should not look at a person and judge them based on what you see before you get a chance to know them. I embrace this belief because I was born with a rare syndrome called Oto-Palatal-Digital Syndrome (OPD) type II, and it gives me a unique appearance mostly in my face, hands, and feet, and it also affects my speech, vision, spine, and hearing. Everyone looks different, but just because some people look more different than others, people start to judge them. I believe this is not right and that all people should be accepted for who they are and not what they look like.
Growing up with OPD, I have had to deal with people staring at me and teasing me just because of the way I look. I had kids call me ugly, and one time when I was four I had a boy tell me he hated me for no reason. But my parents taught me that I can’t let that stop me from enjoying life. I have made some good friends who liked me as a person and didn’t care what I looked like. All my friends know I am nice and I have a great sense of humor. I love to play percussion and I am obsessed with aviation and Pokémon.
I would say this belief is not part of the US dominant culture because there are so many people who don’t know how to talk to someone with any kind of difference, be it race, manner of dress, or disabilities. On the whole it has taken many years to have society accept people with different colors of skin, and society is still having difficulty accepting people with disabilities. People with disabilities are not that much different than other people, they just have to live their life their way, finding ways to compensate. We still want to have fun and make friends, just like everyone else, and we still love to learn. Some people don’t seem to get that. This belief is more specific to my family and friends because they know me and know not to judge me by my looks. I also have a specific group of friends who share this same belief because they also go through what I go through.
This great organization supports families who have a family member with a craniofacial difference, like I have. The group is called Children’s Craniofacial Association (CCA) and they provide emotional and financial support for children and adults and their families affected by craniofacial differences. I really enjoy being friends with people from CCA because they know what I’ve been through, physically and emotionally, because they have been through it too.
CCA’s motto is “Beyond the Face is a Heart” which basically means that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like; they still have feelings just like everyone else. But because of the way our faces are, people tend to look at us and treat us differently. We often get stared at. One great thing that CCA does is hold a retreat every year for us to meet and have fun with others just like us, and know that we are not alone. When you are at the retreat you don’t have to worry about being stared at because everyone knows that staring is rude and they know why you look the way you do.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that you should not be judged based on looks. Everyone has feelings and everyone has things they like and dislike. But one thing that everyone wants is to be accepted, and that tends to be difficult for people who have any kind of difference. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s nice to know that there are good people in the world that do see beyond the differences, and if we had more people like them, the world would be a better place. Don’t judge a book by its cover; you might miss out on an amazing story.