We all have memories of moments when the way we thought about ourselves changed. Most people have had several such experiences with a single individual experiencing both positive and negative moments.
It might have been a personal accomplishment — doing well on a test in a class that has been a struggle, or taking a prize in a prestigious contest of might, skill, ability and/or knowledge.
It might have been a personal failure in such an area or simply a moment of acknowledging a bad choice that was made.
It might not have been anything you did or said at all but behavior of someone else that created a moment when you changed how you thought about yourself.
I was still in elementary school when I was chosen to be one of the kids who did sign language during a performance at school.
We lived next door to my stepgrandparents and I don’t remember why they were taking us home after the concert, but I remember exactly what it was like sitting in the backseat of their car when she turned around to speak to me.
She didn’t just turn her head to speak over her shoulder. She unfastened her seat belt and turned so that her shoulders faced me, looked me in the eye and said, “It’s a good thing you’re good at that sign language stuff because you’re not pretty enough to do anything else.”
And I was just about to hit that awkward pre-teen phase when I was definitely not very pretty.
Looking back on that moment I can understand why she felt the need to do that, but it still has the power to hurt. Mostly it just makes me sad for the unhappiness that motivated that behavior.
It also motivates my behavior 40 years later.
This weekend while speaking to a lovely lady, who reminded me greatly of Grandma Vi, in a crowded room of loved ones gathered to celebrate more than a century of her life, this stranger said, “You’re so pretty.”
It was the first thing she said and she said it multiple times.
There are times when I get all dolled up and even I am impressed at the look of the person in the mirror.
That does not happen very often.
It takes a lot of time, effort and money to look that kind of good. My resources are best spent elsewhere, but occasionally it’s good for the spirit to get dressed up.
Normally I make every effort to be clean and tidy and comfortable for whatever task is at hand. Sometimes that means wearing a dress and sometimes it means wearing hiking boots.
Most of the time it involves a very fun pair of socks.
It definitely does not involve make up and trying to look pretty.
So when the girl who was told she wasn’t pretty by someone who was supposed to love and protect her becomes a woman who is declared to be so by a stranger, inspiration strikes.
Maybe the impact was so great because she reminded me so much of the woman I thought of as my mother or maybe it was because she was a stranger, but as I felt that moment return to me I thought of all those other kids.
Some of the kids out there are about to hit that awkward phase where nothing is right from the way they look to the way they feel, and it can last a lot longer than anticipated.
Some of the kids out there are used to hearing that it’s a good thing they’re pretty because they aren’t smart enough to do anything else.
Some of the kids out there aren’t hearing anything at all because there’s not even anyone to be unkind to them.
Some of the kids out there are hiding inside the bodies of adults.
Be conscientious of how you speak to one another and remember that a single compliment can carry weight through a moment, into The Tribune, and inspire the heart of a community.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.