People often stare at Darryl Kramer, and children regularly ask her lots of questions.
An achondroplasia dwarf, Kramer is 3′ 9″ tall. Her condition means that her limbs are very short. Kramer and her family live in Canandaigua, N.Y. Her husband and son are both of average height, as are her parents and her brother.
In a first-person account in Reader’s Digest, she wrote candidly of some of the challenges she has faced. When a child approached her in the grocery store and bluntly asked her why she was so small, she replied: “It’s the way God made me. Some people are little. Some are tall. I’m just not going to grow any bigger.”
Kramer says that she likes talking to children and helping them understand why she looks different. She takes all the time necessary to answer their many questions. But the confidence this requires did not develop overnight.
As she was growing up, her parents encouraged her to do everything the other children in the neighborhood did. She rode bicycles, roller-skated and even climbed into tree houses. In fact, one of her neighbors built his tree house with the steps unusually close together so that she could climb them more easily.
Sometimes some of the other children at school were cruel, but she always had a lot of friends who surrounded her with acceptance and, when necessary, protection and defense.
Even today people can sometimes be rude. When they are, she says, she reminds herself of all the great friends and family she has. The children and their questions bring special pleasure to her. “When I talk with children, they leave content that their questions have been answered. My hope is that in taking time with them, I will encourage them to accept their peers, whatever size and shape they come in, and treat them with respect.”
Kramer gained empowerment because she was accepted, first by her family, then by neighbors and later by an ever-broadening circle of friends. While her stature might have kept her on society’s fringes, it hasn’t. She has been included because she has a winsome personality and because other people have chosen to be accepting rather than mean-spirited.
Accepting others unconditionally was one of Jesus’ most endearing qualities. While some within the religious community were critical and unwilling to accept those shoved to society’s fringes, Jesus was kind and inclusive. Gentiles, Samaritans, prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, women and children discovered their value when they met him. He took time with them, had meals with them, put his reputation on the line by associating with them. His acceptance empowered them to become the people God intended for them to be.
It’s amazing what a little acceptance can do for a person. Scores of marginalized people today wonder if they will ever find it.
God calls the church to continue the kind of inclusive fellowship Jesus modeled and which we have received. How well are we doing?
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.