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To My Coworkers Who Made Fun of a Little Person

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I overheard you as he walked by – laughing to each other, trying to get others to join in your “fun.” This man, who has dwarfism, passes through on a regular basis and always has a smile on his face. People know him by name, calling out to him as soon as he rounds the corner. He seems to be happy, successful, and confident in who he is as an individual.

Your words and actions will probably never affect him, but they certainly affected me. You see, the moment you made fun of this man is the moment you revealed the safety of this environment: it isn’t safe.

You tear people down because of something they couldn’t choose about themselves. Instead of understanding the reality of differences in this world, you choose to turn them into weapons against anyone who doesn’t think, act, or look the same as you.

As someone who knows what it’s like to be different, your choices make me want to be guarded. Who’s to say you won’t poke fun at my differences when I’m not looking? Or worse, even when I am?

Your choices angered me. Who do you think you are? What makes your differences superior to others’?

Your choices stunned me. I didn’t attempt to extinguish the conversation only because of how long it took me to comprehend your ability to tear down a perfect stranger.

Your choices spurred something inside of me. There won’t be a next time, as long as I’m around to hear it. I won’t sit by and let your ignorance turn you into a monster. Instead, I will do my best to defend the differences of others – and myself – in hopes of opening your eyes to something bigger than yourself.

You aren’t bad people, you’ve simply learned to place a stigma where it shouldn’t be. I’m not saying this to put you down, but to make you think. Sometimes we as human beings don’t consider the repercussions of our actions and what they mean for the person on the other end.

Being obviously different than those around you – whether due to illness, disability, or simply genetics – is hard enough without the negativity of individuals like you. I hope it’s something you never have to experience, but learn to understand.

I wouldn’t trade my differences for anything in this world, and I bet this man wouldn’t either. For as much as my differences have taken from me, they have also given me more than I could have ever imagined.

So, the next time you see this man, or anyone “different,” think about the ways he’s most likely overcome adversity. Or appreciate the mystery of uniqueness. Whatever you do, don’t put them down because you feel entitled by societal guidelines. I believe we all need to become a little more considerate of the differences in this world. After all, they almost always make it a better place.

Your “Different” Coworker

Originally published: September 13, 2016
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