“Look at Her!”

They are three words that I hear at least weekly.

I hear them at the park, at the museum, in the grocery store, at the mall.

“Look at her!”

Those three words exit the mouths of older toddlers, of elementary kids, of groups of teenagers, and even sometimes, unfortunately, of adults.

Those three words are directed toward my precious daughter, my four-year-old Brenna, who was born with a severe skin disorder that means her skin doesn’t work well and builds up too quickly, leaving her susceptible to infections and heat-intolerant and with an appearance that looks like a terrible sunburn all over her body.

Look at her? Look at that child who looks very different than you?

Yes, look at her. Look at her wide smile that stretches up as she laughs an ornery chuckle straight from her little belly that becomes infectious as you listen.cIMG_4573

Look at her. Look at her strikingly beautiful eyes that are the color of the Pacific Ocean on a clear day. Bright blue eyes that sparkle with joy and mischief, especially when she’s purposely bugging her brother or playing a game like hide and seek. Blue eyes that widen a little with anxiety every time she hears something about a doctors office or hospital because she is so worried about being poked with an IV or even getting her blood pressure taken.

Look at her. Look at her dance to her favorite songs, twirling her dress or raising her arms to “shake if off.” Look at the way she immediately begins nodding her head and upper body to the beat if she’s sitting down and hears music of any kind. Look at her sing along, her sweet little voice trying to keep up with the lengthy lyrics.

Look at her. Look at her determination at she tries something for the first time – usually a physical feat that most of her peers could do years ago. Look at her thrill at she rides down the slide at the park for the first time or climbs a set of stairs for the first time, so proud of being able to conquer that small but exciting accomplishment.001

Look at her. Look at her as you listen, to those words of compassion coming out of her mouth as she asks why the little boy crying on the other side of the room is sad or why the woman at the grocery store doesn’t feel well.

Look at her. Look at her excitement about being at the playground, or the library, or even the store – wherever you are seeing her, she is excited to be there… to be around other people, to play with other kids, to experience something new in a social setting.

Look at her. Look at the way she gives her parents a questioning expression as they explain to the fifth person that day that no, she was not terribly sunburned and yes, that’s how she was born. Look at the way she asks what’s wrong when her parents have to tell a nearby child to stop being unkind when they see him or her pointing and using words like “weird” or “creepy.”

Look at her. Look at her tenacity each new day. It is often masked as pure four-year-old stubbornness and is the kind of tenacity that makes her mommy pull her hair out now but also feel relieved inside that she will give people a run for their money when she is older. A tenacity that offers her parents hope and expectation that she will stick up for herself and walk with self-assurance through the years.cIMG_7395

I can’t show you all of these things when you simply look at my daughter for the first time, most likely gawking over her peeling red skin, shiny from lotion. You’re not the first one to look, and you won’t be the last.

But I hope that you know there is much more to Brenna’s story beyond your first curious glance. There is much more to this person in front of you than what you first see. So next time, whether it’s my daughter or someone else who appears different than you do, please look a little more.

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12 thoughts on ““Look at Her!”

  • August 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm
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    I think she is beautiful!

  • August 16, 2016 at 7:45 pm
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    Well, you just described the little girl that I see!! Don’t stress what other people say or think. You are one of the blessed families.

  • August 16, 2016 at 8:48 pm
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    She’s just a doll with her sunny smile that lights up her eyes. And she looks so happy here. What more could you ask for? Life is good.

  • August 16, 2016 at 10:13 pm
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    Courtney,

    This is one of my favorite poems. It would be so boring if we were homogenized… don’t you think. Brenna is special – I have a special granddaughter. God gives special children to special families – you, your husband and your son were given a gift because He knew how special you were…and He knew that you would do the very best with your gift.

    Glory be to God for dappled things –
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.

    Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

    • August 19, 2016 at 5:47 am
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      Thank you for sharing, this is lovely! 🙂

  • August 17, 2016 at 11:42 pm
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    What a sweet, smiley, happy-looking, loved and beautiful child. <3
    Tenacity is a hell of a trait. Probably the best one anyone could have.

  • August 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm
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    I look and I see a beautiful little girl , not everyone will be able to see past her skin unfortunately but those are the people that wont ever see true beauty in the world around them either. I am lucky enough to know a young women who also has Harleqin and be able to call her my friend , the first time i met her i obviously had questions such as what happened , were you burned etc etc the usual ignorant, inquisitive questions but she was also used to these questions being asked time and time again and educated me about what harlequin was and how it affected her and what treatment/ creams helped her skin. I can honestly say my friend Nusrit is an inspiration she has never let her skin condition hold her back from anything and she is tireless in raising awareness of Harlequin, i hope one day people will be more accepting of people who may look a little different and perhaps realise that they look different too as we all do. Keep smiling Brenna, as it’s the best way to disarm negativity, be your usual brilliant and beautiful self as you are perfect just the way you are x

  • September 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm
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    wow she’s beautiful in every way and im glad to se how happy she looks ??

  • September 15, 2016 at 2:29 pm
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    Look at her! An adorable little girl with a wonderful family ☺
    I can’t belive how cruel People can be! Every Child is beautiful in their own way.
    I think Brenna is amaizing and a real cutie!
    Lots of hugs from Sweden.

  • September 16, 2016 at 2:55 am
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    Her eyes shimmer out the beauty she possess! People don’t realise how cruel they can be. Sending love and happy tears.

  • September 20, 2016 at 1:05 pm
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    Yeah look at her… What a smile!! And those eyes <3 She is simply beautiful and so cute!! Give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek from me and My little son from Denmark! You have such an amazing and beautiful family and I wish you all the best

  • September 21, 2016 at 8:28 am
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    You are The most beautiful parents I’ve seen before, The brother ” you are very special” and a very lucky girl. Being a Family must be this???

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