By Elizabeth Grumbach, lower school teacher
Give yourself permission to go back and take a second look. That’s the message that David Roche, comedian and inspirational speaker, shared with our Moses Brown community on November 17. Born with a significant facial difference, David is familiar with the shocked stares, awkward look-aways and other uncomfortable initial reactions to his face. But he doesn’t hold people responsible for those first looks. Instead, he asks that in that moment we work beyond our initial discomfort and take a second, deeper look. When asked by a student “What advice would you give people when they see someone like you?” David responded, “Turn back, look me in the eye, give me a smile, and just say “Hi.”
With this message, David acknowledged our human instinct to be surprised by difference. He believes firmly in the goodness in people, and in their ability to see beyond difference to find common humanity. As he joked about his ‘gang of supportive friends- Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein, Two Face’ he allowed the students before him to notice, accept, and move beyond their discomfort. As David pointed out, within ten minutes no one in the audience was focusing on the left side of his face. They were focusing on his words, his smile, his twinkling eyes and his light step as he moved energetically around in front of them. They were spellbound as his wife, Marlena Blavin, described their first uncomfortable encounter and ensuing love story.
David considers his face to be a gift. When asked, he says he wouldn’t want to go back and be born a different way. What a thought-provoking message for our students to hear. What a gift it was to have him spend a day in our community, encouraging all of us to believe in our own inner lights and in the light of each person we meet, regardless of first impressions.