a close friend of mine who lives in Israel was badly burned over her face and neck a few weeks ago. she has been posting on her own blog lately about the struggle she is having to come to terms with people looking at her face, and people seeing her in a way that she feels doesn’t reflect who she is.

although she is also posting about many other aspects of what she is dealing with, because she is being very brave to speak publicly about this particular issue I feel like it won’t infringe on her privacy to discuss it here.

my friend is a very beautiful person, both inside and out. she is one of those rare individuals who is constantly working on herself, and who consistently has a message worth hearing. but you might miss that if you only wanted to gape at the burns on her face.

she has more courage than any dozen people I know, and she has the fortitude of an army, but I could see how people might miss that if their main concern was how much scar tissue she was going to have after her accident.

she is one of the best moms I have ever met, and seriously one of the best human beings, but if your biggest way of sizing someone up when you meet them is by how creamy their complexion is, she just might not measure up to your high standards right now.

listen, it’s a very real thing that we all have to make judgments about the people we come into contact with. I would be pretty disingenuous if I told you I didn’t judge people a gazillion times a day, or even that I thought people shouldn’t judge other people. I think we were given common sense for a reason- in order to be discriminating so that we don’t make stupid decisions that we could have avoided.

but I have also been on the other side of this double-edged sword. when I was in a wheelchair I became an instant nonentity. I was spoken down to, condescended to, talked over, or ignored completely. people avoided touching me when they gave me change, watched as doors closed in my face or as i struggled with one thing or another and they stared without helping. i was gawked at openly and ridiculed by folks who should have known better.

did i grow from the experience? not really.

ha! i bet that was a surprise, huh?

i know i am supposed to say how it made me such a better person, and how i don’t regret it, because it made me who i am today. well, the truth is, i was compassionate before i was in the wheelchair. i was already kind, so i can’t say it was transformative. mostly it was just hurtful.

it was painful for me and awful for my kids.

one day, after being very excited that *h was home and i could finally get out of the house with the family, we were all going to go for a walk (technically, i was going to go for a roll…). one of my very little kids asked me, “mommy, is it ok if you don’t come? i don’t like when you go out with us in your wheelchair because people stare at us…”

wow. from the mouths of babes…

so i feel for my friend. i have a very small idea of what she will be going through over the next few months once she is out of the hospital. she has to stay out of the sun, which pretty much leaves her indoors during peak hours anyway, but venturing out when you are on shaky ground with a “new you” is hard stuff. i hope people will be kind to her, but i also know that people are naturally curious.

I’ve written lately about struggling with the fact that TBIs are so invisible, and that we can be so bad off and yet nobody knows. but hearing about what my friend is going through makes me so grateful that i have the option of being invisible. because some days when someone asks “how are you?” and they don’t really care, i like to answer “fine”- because i don’t really care about them either, and who needs a while dissertation on my health situation? but my friend doesn’t get days off…

i know how beautiful she is, and she will always be that way to me, regardless of how her face looks when it heals. i think all of the people who love her feel that way. i wish i could walk in front of her with a sword and a shield and fight off all the bullies who would be unkind to her while she is recuperating from everything she has been through. life is tough enough without having to worry about being judged about something as silly as your face.

don’t you think?