A Chapel Talk - Caly Ferguson, Sixth Form

In fifth grade, I attended a new school for the first time. Even though it was small, the thought of meeting new people made me incredibly anxious. For the first few weeks, in everything I did, from raising my hand to fist bumping my peers, I concealed my hands in my pockets or up my sleeves. It’s ironic reminiscing about those times because I was inadvertently making myself look weird, even though I was hiding my hands in an effort to not look weird.

I was born with an abnormality called amniotic band syndrome, which occurs in the womb when fibrous bands wrap around parts of the developing body. For me, the bands wrapped around two fingers on each hand, causing me to lose significant portions of four fingers. As a child, I was self-conscious about this, which caused me to be extremely shy. In unfamiliar environments, such as my first day at a new school, I kept my hands hidden. Even though I always knew I was as capable as a person with ten fingers, I felt ashamed, and it took me years to be myself around people. I felt as though people would not want to associate with me because of my hands; I was afraid to embrace my differences.

My family preached to me that being different wasn’t a bad thing; it was something I should embrace. “Your hands were gifts from God,” they said. One day in that fifth grade year, a friend noticed that my hands were different as I typed my first HTML web page in computer class. At first, he was confused because he didn’t know what he was looking at.

After a few seconds, he recognized what was different about my hands. A few minutes passed, and my hands became the spectacle of the classroom. My classmates were shocked, but then said they thought it was awesome that I was able to do anything they could. They accepted me as I was; that was the first time I experienced a feeling of acceptance outside of my family. Knowing people could be as kind as my classmates regarding my hands, I felt a newfound sense of confidence. 

After that day, I embraced my hands. No more hiding my hands in my sleeves, avoiding raising my hand, or resorting to fist bumps. My peers were in awe of my ability to do things as insignificant as using an Xbox controller, or holding a pencil to create art. Even more significantly,  I was named an all-star on my middle school basketball team and was a key contributor to our championship season. These accomplishments were the result of me accepting my hands as different in a good way.

What makes me unique? Is it the fact that I can do everything that others do and more with four missing fingers? That's not how I would put it. I am unique because I am willing to dive for every loose ball in basketball, sacrifice sleep to fully understand a difficult academic concept, and to work endlessly to find the good in every situation. My journey to becoming more self-confident was a difficult one, but it was in overcoming my insecurity that I realized that the defining characteristic of my life is my determination to work hard. 

Embracing differences is lacking today because everyone wants to wear the same clothes, sing the same songs, talk the same way, and think the same thoughts. Uniqueness must be celebrated more in modern society, and I hope to one day be a driving force in this movement by setting an example through my professional success that one’s differences should not hold them back in any way. My perseverance fuels my mentality to be the hardest worker in every room. My hands are a part of my image, but they do not define me, and that is what makes me unique.

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