Sunday evening we watched the movie, “A Smile as Big as the Moon.” John Corbett stars in this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie as special education teacher Mike Kersjes, who pushed through seemingly impossible obstacles to help his special education students achieve the honor of attending Space Camp. The movie is a true story and is a beautiful portrayal of a teacher who believes that his students can accomplish anything if they are willing to work hard. (I don’t intend for this to be a movie review, but I plan to pick this movie up for our movie library for sure!)
The thing that pained my heart the most in this movie was the insensitive, and often cruel treatment that these amazing kids endured through the words and actions of their peers both in their high school and at space camp. I was reminded time and time again throughout this movie that what we teach our children from the time they are small about respecting people who are different, shapes them for a life time. Whether it be racial differences, religious differences, differences in physical appearance, or differences in mental or physical capabilities, we shape how our children will respond to others through our own responses every day.
My children will never tease or taunt, giggle, or point and stare at an individual with a mental or physical handicap, my children will never segregate themselves from an individual who’s skin is of a different color, my children will never look down on someone who’s belief system is different than theirs. They have been raised to love.
As parents, we have to be intentional about creating opportunities to teach our children how to process and respond in situations where they are confronted with someone who stands out because they are different. They will learn by example, but they will also learn through instruction. Here’s the link once again to a brochure that I created specifically about this subject “Teaching Your Children to Show Love and Respect to Individuals with Special Needs. “ I challenge each one of you to find ways to be intentional about talking to your own children about loving and respecting others.
Get this movie and other movies like it. Show clips of scenes that depict teasing or outright cold-hearted behaviors, and talk about it. Model good behavior, do some role playing. Teach your children to be the ones to stand up for others, and step in to say, “STOP,” when they see others being mistreated.
I posted the photo above because what it represents is so normal to us. Aiden and Elia on play date with Nick and Amy. Together. Peers. Loving. Playing. Enjoying the world together.
Two very different children. Loving. Playing. Being.
This is what Elia knows.
As a matter of fact, it is quite possible that she knows Aiden better than the rest of us. She is the one that knows what he is feeling and what he is trying to say when none of the rest of us can figure it out. I can hardly wait to watch their relationship bloom and develop as they get older. The very thought of it makes my heart swell.
Elia also has friends of nearly every ethnic background. I am grateful she will grow up knowing and loving her friends for who they are, without regard to the color of their skin. Better yet, appreciating each one of them because of the beauty of their skin color.
The other day, she came home from school and said, “I wish I had brown skin like Hannah.” Was she unhappy about who she is with her smooth, creamy white skin? No, I don’t think so. I think she saw beauty in her friend and was simply admiring that beauty in her own special way.
I want my children to grow to appreciate the uniqueness, beauty and worth of everyone they meet.
I want them to lead lives that are full of love.