This I Believe

Darlene - Sebastopol, California
Entered on May 5, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

As a small child, I was pulled into a mangle. I suffered 3rd degree burns and broken bones in my left hand and arm, . A mangle is a rolling ironing board that clamps down to press large items like sheets and pillow cases. It was the latest invention in the 1950’s, the pre-permanent press era. My Mom had one that had been given to her as a gift. I must have been three or four years old when I managed to get myself caught in the hot rolling monster. Following my burn, was a ten year period of multiple surgeries, skin grafts and pain. In the 1950’s, the treatment of burns was fairly primitive. I consider myself extremely lucky just to have my left arm and hand.

As a result of my many surgeries, I was in and out of school. Not only did I have difficulty concentrating in the classroom, but the other kids were cruel. I was tormented frequently by the other school children for being different and the other parents and adults were not much better. I was restricted from the lunch room at school because I had bandages on my arm. Another time our girl scout leader didn’t want me as part of the troupe because of my hand. It was an ignorant sign of the times. Even today, in this day of enlightenment, I think if you look closely, prejudice and intolerance still exists and kindness and respect is practiced by a few. If schools had a no teasing policy and they acted on that policy, then perhaps there would be no Columbine type incidents.

My childhood was very hard, I always felt like I was a failure. If it had not been for the kindness of my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Durkey, at Lincoln School in Burlingame, California, I am quite sure my life would be very different today. Mr. Durkey taught me the most valuable lessons of all, believe in yourself and persistence pays off. He was the first teacher to treat me as if I had value. I remember I had a fourth grade teacher. She was as mean as a rattle snake and just as deadly. She would squeeze my arm until it was bruised. Those were the days when a teacher could inflict corporal punishment upon the “difficult kids”. Although I don’t think I was difficult or disruptive, I am sure I was disconnected. In a manner of speaking, you could say Mr. Durkey saved me, and I never forgot the kindness of my fifth grade teacher.

My burn left me with scars on the outside, but what hurt the most were the scars on the inside left by intolerance and cruel remarks. Words can hurt you more than the pain of any injury and their impact can last a lifetime. What I have learned and want to share with you is this, help your children understand that what ever disability, color, or difference may exist between us and though we may look different on the outside, we are all the same under the skin.

I don’t understand why any human being believes they have the right to mistreat another person. Only ignorance can be the explanation for cruelty. Take a look at your child today; do they treat others with respect and a kind heart? If not, then it is time for a change and you can make that change. I believe we all have a roll in making the world a better place for all children. It is our responsibility to see that our own children and grandchildren treat others with respect and kindness.