On Being the Change

On Being the Change
Helen Rose
January 4, 2019

Approximately 20 years ago, I went to second grade one day wearing bright pink lipstick that I had found in my mother’s bathroom. It was my favorite color and I felt fabulous wearing it.

During lunch, a teacher marched up to me with a napkin and demanded I remove it.

“Only adults wear makeup in this school,” she said, her face inches from mine.

She seemed furious, and I remember that vividly to this day. Of course, being seven, I may have misunderstood the situation or her tone – all I know is I went to the bathroom to remove my pretty pink lipstick then returned, embarrassed and dejected, to my lunch.

These days, I work with kids in an after school program. Today, four little girls got into some makeup one of them had brought. They had bronzer on their noses and bright blue eyeshadow on their eyelids. They giggled as they came to show me what they had done.

I hated to be the one to tell them they would have to take it off. I asked my supervisor if we had to ask them to remove it and we did.

So one by one, I brought the little girls to the kitchen, a paper towel moistened with warm water in hand.

“I’m going to tell you what I told everyone else. We have to take the makeup off. You’re not in trouble, I know that makeup can be fun. It is also meant for older people. I don’t want you to think that you need it to be beautiful, because there is no way you could be any more beautiful than you already are – all on your own. Do you understand?”

I wiped their faces clean, revealing rosy cheeks, smooth skin, and feathery eyelashes that I know many adults would go to great lengths for.

Maybe I made a difference today. Maybe they’re mad that I made them take it off. Maybe it was completely inconsequential. All I know is that every single one of them smiled, and that’s enough for me.

We don’t have to save the world – saving the world is a team effort. We just have to do our part by doing the next right thing. We have to err on the side of kindness at every opportunity.

The messages we receive from love are so much more powerful than the ones we receive from fear or shame. The Universe is overflowing with abundant, unconditional love – and it starts with every one of us.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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