Once upon a time, a boy got a BB gun for Christmas. Unfortunately, he fulfilled the dire warnings in A Christmas Story and shot his eye out.
His family was poor and could not afford an acrylic or glass eye. But his father was a talented craftsman, and he carved an eye from oak, then painted it and finished it so beautifully it looked just like a real eye.
Nevertheless the boy was terribly self-conscious about his prosthetic eye, even though it was so well-made no one noticed it. His shyness helped him become an outstanding student, since he was never distracted with social activities, and he graduated from high school with honors and a scholarship.
When the boy went to college, his roommate in the dorm was a gentle and compassionate friend who tried to help the boy break out of his shell a little bit.
One day the boy’s roommate asked him why he was so shy and why he never went on dates. There was a dance coming up, he said, and he didn’t understand why the boy avoided such gatherings.
The boy confessed that he was so self-conscious about his prosthetic eye that he was terrified of rejection, and he found it safer to avoid social situations.
His roommate was shocked. “You have a prosthetic eye?!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know why you’re so worried about it—we’ve been roommates for six months and I never suspected a thing!”
“No way!” the boy said.
“Yes way!” his roommate said. “Listen; I’ve been to a bunch of these dances and gatherings and I’ll tell you something: Everyone else there is just as nervous as you are—probably even more. Everyone will be so busy worrying about how they look and what everyone else thinks about how they look, they won’t worry about how you look at all!”
The boy still wasn’t sure, so his roommate said, “Tell you what: We’ll go together. I’ll be your tour guide and your wingman—I’ll help you get your bearings and you’ll enjoy yourself. I promise.”
The boy agreed, hardly able to believe that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t as ugly as he thought.
The night of the dance, the boy was terribly nervous, but he’d never realized how lonely he was before his roommate offered to help him, and he was determined to give it a try.
They sat down at a table on the outskirts of the dance floor, and the boy’s roommate pointed out several unaccompanied girls the boy might want to approach. But the boy’s fear was too strong and he demurred.
Finally, the boy’s roommate said, “Hey, look over there. See that girl sitting by herself at that table? Does she look okay to you?”
The boy looked, and the girl’s beauty took her breath away.
“Okay, get this,” the boy’s roommate said. “I know that girl, and she is just as shy as you are, and for the same reason: She had surgery as a child to repair a cleft palate, and she’s afraid she’s ugly.”
The boy said, “But she’s beautiful! I can barely see a hint of a scar on her upper lip, and that’s only because I was looking for it!”
The boy’s roommate clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t you see?” he said. “She’s just like you! There’s nothing wrong with her, but she thinks she’s ugly and it keeps her from reaching out to others. Now you get over there and ask her to dance! You can do it!”
The boy stood up, and for the first time in his life he approached another person to reach out, rather than hiding and hoping no one would notice him.
Breathless, the boy approached the girl. She glanced up and saw him coming, and she flinched away in a manner he recognized all too well; her body language told him she wanted him to approach her, but at the same time she wanted him to go away.
Filled with compassion, the boy stepped closer and said, “Um—Hi.”
“H‑h-hello,” the girl stuttered.
“I was thinking,” the boy said, “and maybe…” he faltered, but saw his roommate giving him a thumbs-up to encourage him.
“Well,” the boy said, “I’m no good at this stuff, but I wondered if maybe you would like to go dance with me.”
The girl’s eyes lit up, and the boy saw himself in them: She was longing for someone to reach out to her, but just as terrified that someone might reach out to her.
The boy’s roommate watched with joy as she squared her shoulders and exclaimed, “Would I? WOULD I!?”
The boy stepped back, shocked, and roared, “Harelip! HARELIP!”