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"Why would anyone cheer an overweight kid for finishing the race last? That's what is wrong with parents today! They are feeding their kids Cheetos and then cheering them for participation in sports." This was said by a grown man who should know better. A father. A coach. It is a paraphrase of something overheard by a friend recently. The overweight offensive kid in question? A twelve year old little girl.
I wish I had been there when these things were said because I would have pulled this grown man aside and explained to him the years of pain these words and others just like them can bring. The damage that the stuff he said, thinking he was so superior and smart, could inflict. The bulimia. The anorexia. The compulsive eating. The cutting. The self abuse. The self hate. The empty relationships. The searching for a love that would never come. I would have explained to him how that 12 year old little girl may turn to drugs to get thin. She may turn to sex to feel beautiful. Neither will work, of course. It won't be his words alone. No, of course not.
His words are only part of it. There are other words. There are the words that the kid in the alley said as he road by on his bike when she was 5. "Look out fatty." There were the words that her mother said in anger once "you're so fat, you disgust me." There were the words her sister wrote in her diary that she shouldn't have read but she did "I am so glad I am not fat like her." There will be other words too. The words of the boys who turn her down for dates. The words of the boys who break her heart and she is sure it is because she isn't pretty enough or thin enough or both. They are the same thing in her mind. All of these things add up. All of these things tell her she isn't enough. She won't ever be enough. Finishing last is all she will ever do. Finishing last isn't good enough, the man was right. She isn't worthy.
Words hurt. Words can destroy. This is what I would have told this man. I would have told him that he should really think carefully about the stupid things he says before he says them. I would have told him that is why we should encourage her to finish because it is positive and perhaps she will find a love for running and in doing so, develop a healthy habit and find her inner strength. I would have told him that nobody is perfect and he should not judge her on the superficial because in God's eyes she is just as important as he is and he is absolutely no better, no matter how superior he thinks he is.
Then I would gave gone over to the little girl and given her a hug. I would have told her that she is beautiful and worthy and finishing is enough and she should be proud because a lot of people don't even try. I would have told her to never give up because someday she will look in the mirror and see the most amazing woman looking back at her. The woman won't be perfect and she will have battle scars but she will be strong and beautiful in her own way and she will be very, very happy.
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