In 1946 there were four or five of us, ranging in ages four to six, when we rushed into my Mother’s kitchen noisily shouting that we were running away from the “Chango” -the monkey- that we did not want to play with him. All of us were giggling and pushing against the counter and into the folds of her skirt and apron, trying to hide from him squealing that he looked like a “Chango”, a monkey. My Mother put down what she was working on and started her talk to us with the saying: “Todos tienen su gracia.” -which she translated to mean that we all have our gift therefore, a special grace about us. She then said: “Your looks you were born with. You had nothing to do about them. You do not look like you do because you are special. It’s just how you were born, nothing more.” Then leaning down into our faces while pointing to her heart she said: “But, it’s what you have in your heart and in turn how you treat others because of what you have inside your heart over which you have control.” Somehow, we heard and understood her message. Our noisiness stopped cold, and we filed out the back door silently.
In the late 1970’s a group of us from my neighborhood were rushing home from an afternoon lecture series on the upcoming Summer Program by the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. We wanted to be home in time to meet the school-buses as we rushed into the grocery store to pick up a few needed items for supper that night. As I was checking out I met, Miriam, who had also attended the lecture but had gone with her husband. She introduced me to him and he spoke to me about a particular part of the lecture he had appreciated. When I got to the station wagon the other women were already there and said they could not believe I had spent that much time talking to, Hershel, that they could not understand his severe stuttering and found his gesticulating hard to take. I was stunned, for I had not heard the stuttering nor seen anything out of the ordinary. As I pushed myself back into my seat I wrapped my arms around my paper sack and thanked the memory of that beautiful face looking down at me that many years ago telling me to look for the gift inside a person.
I wish I could tell you that I always practice and act on the saying that “Todos tienen su gracia”. I don’t, and I sometimes fail miserably. But I do believe, and know from this one experience which so strongly affirmed that if we all looked for the gift inside others more often, and went beyond what a person looks like, it would be a much easier world to live in for all of us.