Out of the Mouths of Babes

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV movies was “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer.”  I suppose I identified strongly with Rudolph back then.  After all, he wasted a lot of time trying to hide his glowing red nose only to eventually figure out that it was something he would want to flaunt. He even found he could use it to help others.  I was just as taken with the relationship between Rudolph and his elf friend, Hermey.  Although outwardly Hermey was cute as a button, his “difference,” as he explained to Rudolph, was his strong desire to become a dentist, rather than make toys.  In hindsight,  Hermey felt tremendous pressure to hide his true self and feared how people would react to him.  Initially, both Rudolph and Hermey were bullied into conformity.  The two related to each other because of, not despite, their differences.  Fortunately, they eventually learned to embrace what set them apart from the rest.  Watching the movie was probably one of the first times it occurred to me that someone else seemingly “perfect,” could also consider themselves different, like me.

Since the Scholastic Storyworks magazine article, “The Awesome  Powers of Ethan Z,” came out last month, Ethan has been receiving loads of letters from grade school children across the country.  I was particularly startled by the kids’ willingness to share their own differences with Ethan, wanting him to know that his message, “I Don’t Care What You Think About Me,” was helping them manage their insecurities.  Here are some snippets:

Dear Ethan,

 “I really liked your story and I am also different because when I am bullied I do not stand up for myself….in my class there is someone who hates my guts and calls me stupid.  Next time she bothers me I would like to try your method……”

 “I am different too because I am very sensitive to other people’s feelings and even cry when they cry.  When people are rude to me I am going to try not caring what other people think of me.  Since it worked for you I am sure it will work for me….”

 “I will tell my friends about your method.  There is a big bully in our school and we think it will work.  Thanks for helping me…”

 “I enjoyed reading about you in class.  It is amazing the way you act.  I hope you understand how great you really are.  I am different because people teased me when I was new at camp.  I cried.  I will now try to be like you and say, “I don’t care what you think about me!”  You taught me to be the bigger person.”

“About one week ago someone was hitting, kicking and tackling me, and then threw a football hard in my face.  The person said I messed up the game.  Later that day we read your Storyworks article and I remembered what you said and later that day I said “I don’t care what you think about me” to the kid and walked away…”

“I am different because I am scared of all fish—even the dead ones!  Even  though nobody knows it is nothing to tease me about and that should be the same with you…”

“I am different because 3 people in my family have celiac and two have autism.  As for me, I have HUGE birthmark on my lip.  I like how you can just say, “I don’t care what you think about me,” and mean it….I’ll always remember to practice like you did with your mom so I’ll have awesome powers just like you…”

“I am different because I like different books and music than my friends…I will try your method when the bullies bother me…”

“I am different because I don’t care much about rock stars or looking good or being in fashion.  At camp I hung up an Angry Birds poster instead of a Bieber poster and was teased.  I will try your method next summer…”

“I am different because my arms are very hairy.  I have never seen someone like you, it’s really special.  You can do anything, and you make me feel like everyone is different, not just me. I think you are the coolest person I have ever seen…”

“I am different because I have curly, poofy hair and I have celiac disease.  Last year someone called me unlucky and made me sad.   I cannot wait to use your methods when people bother me about my food.”

“I am different because I am very tall for my age.  Some people call me names or try to climb on me.  I did what you said and they went away!”

What I loved most of all from our efforts with Scholastic was that the article has prompted kids to not only identify what their difference is, but also begin to appreciate that they cannot control what others think of them.  Rather, the kids are concluding, as Ethan advised in the article, “If a person can’t accept you, then they are not a friend.  And if that person isn’t a friend, then you shouldn’t care about what that person thinks of you.”

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5 Responses to “Out of the Mouths of Babes”

  1. amy rothNovember 23, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    what a wonderful service you’re doing to the world, Meg. Yes, to your own children, but also yes to everyone else. Because one way or another, we’re all “different.” (Ask your mother-in-law about me when we were kids!). Even the bullies of the world feel different in some way, otherwise they wouldn’t be bullies

  2. Max KaslerNovember 22, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    Everytime I read a blog, I’m inspired. I love how you make the best of every situation and that Ethan is able to accept his difference and teach people to be themselves. Go Zuckers!

  3. JulieNovember 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    How fantastic that kids are willing to share their experiences with Ethan and to let him know what a powerful influence he has had on their outlook. Go, Ethan!! Keep up the inspiring work, Meg!

  4. Angie (Everette) LaVoieNovember 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Meg how inspiring!!! How he must have given hope to all of those kids who probably felt so alone before. You both rock!!

  5. Dave WeaverNovember 20, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks for another inspiring post. It’s great that Ethan is inspring so many kids and getting so much fan mail! It’s a shame there’s so much bullying that goes on among kids. Of course bullying needs to be addressed and reduced, but all kids need to learn how to resist its power. This is clearly an important message to be shared.