I’m just back from a fantastic week in the south of France, a chance to catch up with our daughter in Toulouse and sample life in a wonderful environment. I’ll tell you more in a later blog about our great trip, but for the moment I want to talk about something wonderful I saw there.
On June 21 each year the whole country embraces Fete de la Musique, a brilliant idea conceived by then Minister of Culture Jack Lang and launched in 1982. On that day the streets are filled with the sound of music. We happened to be staying in the centre of Toulouse and wherever you went it was hard to escape the music. Tens of thousands of people, young and old, thronged the streets and squares, listening or dancing to everything from samba, pop, hip hop, rap and any kind of music genre you could think of.
Although many people were drinking openly, the carnival-like atmosphere was not spoilt by any trouble. Many were simply loving the moment and the magical experience. The scenes were replicated thousands of times throughout the villages, towns and cities of France, but there was no doubt that in Toulouse we were witnesses to a memorable event.
As we made our way through the crowds, I realised that nobody was giving me a second glance. I was very relaxed and happy to feel so comfortable about my face, and that nobody seemed to care what I looked like. I don’t always feel so carefree in a crowd. There are days I simply dread going out in public. It’s a constant battle I fight with myself to this day.
In this sea of faces and bodies I spotted a young girl with her friends. She was wearing shorts, and what quickly registered was that she was burned from her shoulders to her feet. It struck me that she was smiling, clearly happy, and not at all uncomfortable at the thought of exposing her burned legs and arms. I felt so happy for her. Here was a girl confident enough not to care what others thought about her body.
I know how difficult it is for those whose bodies are disfigured to show those scars. It takes enormous courage and self-belief to face a world that is often unforgiving about facial and body differences. Good for her that she was determined to act normally.
I know nothing about that girl, how her accident came about, nor how she is coping with life. But it seems to me she has the right attitude. Don’t be afraid to face your fears every day. And win.