Sometimes pictures get me. It sounds silly. Maybe it is. But sometimes, a picture hits me in my core, cutting, ripping, tearing away at soul and sinew.
Some pictures, some stories haunt me as assuredly as a ghost in a graveyard. I can’t sleep without it popping into my dreams. I can’t concentrate without it popping into conscious thought.
This picture sticks with me like a chain around the heart:
This young albino, boy lives in Ghana. A precious young lady who grew up a friend to my kids and is dear to all my family took the picture. After college she served as a missionary in Ghana for several years and worked at an orphanage. This is one of the many children she worked with.
Because the boy has no pigmentation in his skin, he is rejected by his community. Other children call him names. They taunt him. He has no friends.
A few of the adults in his village consider him bad luck, at best, but most adults there say he is cursed with an evil spirit because he’s albino.
He is a social outcast, through no fault of his own, only because he looks different.
In the picture, his eyes look down to avoid others. The boy doesn’t know it, but his body language is speaking the universal expression of feeling overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted and helpless.
His expression is flat. Hopelessness is his emotional food.
His hand is on his head, as if to comfort a pounding headache from the inner turmoil twisting in his heart like a tornado. On one side, he has lost out on love, acceptance and friendship, so now his human nature prods him to just survive. Yet on the other side, his emotions are raw, deeply wounded, twisted, and gnarled from all the rejection he has experienced during his young lifetime. His feelings, his painful emotions tell him there is no way out, no escape, and he must simply endure it all, every day, always.
He covers one eye with a hand, as if to block out what he sees every day.
Please don’t stare at me. I don’t stare at you.
Please don’t reject me. I promise I won’t get in your way.
Please don’t make fun of me. I know I’m different and don’t know why, but I just want to be loved. No, you don’t even have to love me. You don’t even have to like me! Just please, please don’t be mean to me.
Please don’t call me “cursed” or “devil”. I don’t say anything back, even when I try to act like it doesn’t bother me, but your words cut, and pound. They’re killing me.
Please don’t walk on the other side of the path to stay as far away from me as you can. I know I don’t look like everyone else, but I promise I won’t do anything to hurt you, or anyone else.
Please don’t tell your children to stay away from me because I am bad, because, I’m not bad, at least, I don’t think I am. I just feel bad, but I promise, I won’t be bad! I’ll be nice!
And other children, please don’t laugh at me. I just want to be your friend. I want to run and play, even though my feet are completely flat. Sometimes it hurts physically just to walk, but I want to run and play no matter how much it makes my feet hurt. I want to be like you! When you point and laugh at me though, part of me dies, and the rest of me just hurts. Sometimes it wells up inside and I get made that I’m so different from you. I just don’t know what to do with all of that inside!
So please, don’t mock me. Don’t say I should go far away, or I should just go out by myself and die. I don’t want to die. Not really. But I don’t know how to live like this. Please, I beg you, please!
This picture, this image of a little white, black African boy stays with me. I can’t shake it.
I don’t want to be a downer, or dark blot on your day, but if you’ve read this far, then you feel it too. You care too.
I honestly don’t know what to do about it. I do know thought that making a mistake or doing the wrong thing is better than being complacently oblivious. An action, even a tiny one, is better than sitting and doing nothing.
Not trying to do something is no different from the adults in the boy’s village who say he cursed.
We don’t, however, have to go across the globe to find the boy in this picture. He’s in your city. He goes to the local school. He’s employed where we go all the time. He walks quietly by in the store careful to avoid eye contact.
He’s old, he’s young. He’s black, he’s white. He’s poor, he’s rich. He lives under a bridge, in a nursing home, or maybe across the street. He’s the one we see all the time, but never, ever notice.
This is a picture of him, even though he doesn’t look like this.
If we can help him in our own little village, maybe someone can help this child in his. I hope so.
I really hope so.