In 2001 my mother and I were boarding a flight from Dallas to Mexico City on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As we walked down the aisle on the plane I was looking ahead to locate our assigned seats. As we got closer and closer I could see a very unusual sight. Sitting next to my mother's assigned seat was a man whose face was completely covered in fur-like hair. Astonished and concerned for my mother I sat down next to him and had my mother sit across the aisle.
I felt extremely perplexed about who this person was and if the fur-like hair on his face was real, or if he might be playing a joke and wearing a mask. I didn't want to stare so I just peeked from time to time. I would ask myself, "Is it covering his whole face?" I'd peek and look again. Then another question, "Is it on his hands?" Peek and look again. It was so strange, so unusual, so uncomfortable that I didn't say a word to him.
The stewardess came along and for some reason asked the man to change seats which he did.
Throughout our pilgrimage this man's face was in my mind's eye. I found out later that he was part of a Mexican family who for five generations has suffered from a very rare condition known as hypertrichosis which causes an excessive amount of body hair primarily from genetic factors. The family has been segregated from Mexican society and can only obtain work in the circus. The brothers are known for their daredevil acts in the Mexican circus.
Some people perceive them as wolves--insulting them, howling at them, saying unkind things to them--treating them like people from another world. One of the young men of the family, quoted by the US News, said, "I don't take it seriously. I know who I am inside."
Profound--utterly profound, "I know who I am inside." How many of us with no obvious abnormality can make such a statement?
I deeply regret missing my opportunity that day to meet a special man, to speak kind words to him, to treat him with dignity and respect. He came to me as significant gift and I will never forget him.
May we have the grace like him to know and be at peace with who we are on the inside.