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Beautiful On The Inside

Lisa, my two-year old daughter, and I were walking down the street
toward home one sunny morning when two elderly women stopped in front of
Smiling down at Lisa, one of them said, "Do you
know you are a very beautiful little girl?"

Sighing and putting her hand on her hip, Lisa replied in a bored voice,
"Yes, I know!"

A bit embarassed by my daughter's seeming conceit, I apologized to the
two ladies and we continued on our walk home. All the way there, I was
trying to determine how I was going to handle this situation.

After we went into the house, I sat down and stood Lisa in front of me.
I gently said, "Lisa, when those two ladies spoke to you, they were
talking about how pretty you are on the outside. It's true you are
pretty on the outside. That's how God made you. But a person needs to be
beautiful on the inside too."

As she looked at me uncomprehendingly, I continued. "Do you want to
know how a person is beautiful on the inside?"

She nodded solemnly.

"Okay. Being beautiful on the inside is a choice you make, honey, to be
good to your parents, a good sister to your brother and a good friend to
the children you play with. You have to care about other people, honey.
You have to share your toys with your playmates. You need to be caring
and loving when someone is in trouble or gets hurt and needs a friend.
When you do all those things, you are beautiful on the inside. Do you
understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes, Mommy, I'm sorry I didn't know that," she replied.

Hugging her, I told her I loved her and that I didn't want her to forget
what I'd said. The subject never came up again.

Nearly two years later, we moved from the city to the country and
enrolled Lisa in a preschool program. In her class was a little girl
named Jeanna, whose mother had died. The child's father had recently
married a woman who was energetic, warm and spontaneous. It was readily
apparent that she and Jeanna had a wonderful, loving relationship.

One day Lisa asked if Jeanna could come over to play for an afternoon,
so I made arrangements with her stepmother to take Jeanna home with us
the next day after the morning session.

As we were leaving the parking lot, Jeanna said, "Can we go see my

I knew her stepmother was working, so I said cheerfully, "Sure, do you
know how to get there?"

Jeanna said she did and, following her directions, I soon found myself
driving up the gravel road into a cemetery.

My first response was one of alarm as I thought of the possible negative
reaction of Jeanna's parents when they learned what had happened.
However, it was obvious that visiting her mother's grave was very
important to her, something she needed to do; and she was trusting me to
take her there. Refusing would send her a message that it was wrong of
her to want to go there.

Outwardly calm, as though I'd known this was where we were going all
along, I asked, "Jeanna, do you know where your mother's grave is?"

"I know about where it is," she responded.

I parked on the road in the area she indicated and we looked around
until I found a grave with her mother's name on a small marker.

The two little girls sat down on one side of the grave and I sat on the
other and Jeanna started talking about how things had been at home in
the months leading up to her mother's death, as well as what had
happened on the day she died. She spoke for some time and all the while
Lisa, with tears streaming down her face, had her arms around Jeanna
and, patting her gently, said quietly over and over, "Oh, Jeanna, I'm so
sorry. I'm so sorry your mother died."

Finally, Jeanna looked at me and said, "You know, I still love my mommy
and I love my new mommy, too."

Deep in my heart, I knew that this was the reason she'd asked to come
here. Smiling down at her, I said reassuringly, "You know ,Jeanna,
that's the wonderful thing about love. You never have to take it away
from one person to give it to another. There's always more than enough
to go around. It's kinda like a giant rubberband that stretches to
surround all the people you care about." I continued, "It's perfectly
fine and right for you to love both your mothers. I'm sure your own
mother is very glad that you have a new mommy to love and take care of
you and your sisters."

Smiling back at me, she appeared satisfied with my response. We sat
quietly for a few moments and then we all stood up, brushed ourselves
off and went home. The girls played happily after lunch until Jeanna's
stepmother came to pick her up.

Briefly, without going into a great deal, I told her what had occured
that afternoon and why I'd handled things as I had. To my profound
relief, she was very understanding and appreciative.

After they left, I picked Lisa up in my arms, sat down on a kitchen
chair, kissed her cheek and hugged her tighly an said, "Lisa, I am so
proud of you. You were such a wonderful friend to Jeanna this afternoon.
I know it meant a lot to her that you were so understanding and that you
cared so much and felt her sadness."

A pair of lovely, dark brown eyes looked seriously into mine as my
daughter added, "Mommy, was I beautiful on the inside?"

--Pamela J. deRoy