Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't Be Afraid

You do not know the little girl in the picture, but you would want to. She smiles irrepressibly at the camera, her arm lightly crooking a puppy nearly as big as she is. You might assume this photograph was professionally cast and staged, the child so radiant, with strong cheekbones, broad smile, dark eyes and exotic gaucho outfit.

But you don’t know her, and this is not a costume. She simply lives in a world of infinite possibility, where girls can be gauchos, and anyone she meets can be her friend.

You have not seen her in action, as she create eddies of smiling people wherever she passes. Making friends with passengers waiting out a flight delay, then insisting upon introducing them to each other. And so we board, strangers no more.

You do not know her story — of how she escaped a dismal life on the streets of Guatemala City. Homeless and fatherless, and for all practical purposes, motherless, she arrived here infested with parasites, but with two people prepared to love her, no matter what.

You do not know her American parents, but you can behold their influence in the confidence and joy with which she greets the world. Yes, she has had great advantages and comforts in a privileged household, but the greatest of these is love.

You do not know her adult friends, who can take pleasure in, if not credit for, her upbringing. We are pleased to be in her orbit, to baby sit, to take her hand in a crowd, to be part of her extended family. She comfortably converses with doctors and nurses, judges and lawyers, writers and actors, carpenters and business people. On this day, she is the only gaucho.

You have not heard the comments made in the presence of this beautiful brown child: “Too bad you couldn’t get a white man to marry you.” And, sad to say, that is not the worst of what her mothers hear — or what the daughter will begin to hear once she gets older and starts to read.

If you do not know this child, her two mothers or other families like hers, how can you claim to know what works for families and what doesn’t? How can you claim to love all people while denying their individual humanity? How can you support laws based on your fear of what might happen, without at least trying to understand what is actually happening right here before you?

I wish you could know this child. She would tell you not to be afraid any more.

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