Were it not for my love of lima beans, I may have never learned to love them! I remember starting sixth grade in a new school and being the largest child – in both weight and height – among my classmates. Starting the school year in a new school and being the largest child in my class were familiar situations, and I anticipated the familiar taunts. New school, new “fat kid” – not a good combination.
I remember walking into the school the first day and wondering how long it would take to make friends and to find new “enemies”, who throughout the year would make my life unbearable. I remember making a few friends fairly quickly and thinking that maybe this school was different from all the others I had attended. My new friends and I sat together at lunch, and as I looked around the lunchroom and saw all the other kids who seemed so normal, I wanted to eat, look and be like those kids. However, lunch was the worst time of day for me because most of the other children laughed and made fun of me as I ate.
One day, several of my “friends” started calling me “Lima Bean”. As naïve as I was back then, I wondered, “How do they know I love lima beans?” I thought nothing of this new nickname except that maybe by chance I was finally fitting in. Until one night at the dinner table when the lima beans on my plate reached up and slapped me hard across the face. I had been so happy that my mom had prepared one of my favorite side dishes, yet as I began to eat, I looked down at my plate and really saw those lima beans for the very first time. There were these fat little things looking up at me, and at that second my world took a tumble as I realized I had been duped into believing I had friends. They were not my friends. I had not been accepted. I was the brunt of yet another fat joke, and to add insult to injury, it was based on my favorite legume! I was a “lima bean”, and in the eyes of my “friends” just another fat girl they could make fun of.
Not much has changed over the years. I am still a big girl, people still stare and make jokes, though not as brutally as before. There are times when I look back on that day and wonder what became of those “friends” I wonder if they still make themselves laugh with their cruelty and at the expense of others. I wonder if someone else has been hurt by their remarks or their stares. I have to admit, though, being a lima bean has taught me more than anything else I have learned or experienced in my life. Little did those kids know that they were teaching me acceptance of other people’s appearances, disabilities, capabilities, and shortcomings – their own “lima beans”. In the years since, I have been able to look past those superficialities and to see what truly matters. In other words, I learned in sixth grade to judge not, as Dr. King had taught us, on what is on the outside of a person, but what lives within us all. From being a lima bean, I have learned to have genuine care for my fellow humans.
Yes, I still wonder about those old friends from time to time. Have they, in the intervening years discovered their own lima beans? And more importantly, have they learned to love them as much as I do? I hope so. This I believe.