Hi There

My name is Darren. I thought I would get in touch. I live a long way away – on the other side of Canada, in fact – so we’ll probably never see each other in person. I thought a letter might be the next best thing to say hello and pass on something important, something I hope you take to heart.

A letter. Your mum wrote one. It is evil. Unforgivable. The police say it isn’t a ‘hate crime’, but that’s just what the law says: it is hateful and it is criminal. That’s not just my opinion – that’s how many, many, many people feel about it. The words in her letter – they should never be written down, never spoken. They should never even find a way into your brain. Your mum’s letter shouldn’t have happened. But it did. She has to live with its consequences for the rest of her life.

You don’t.

We’ve never met, so I don’t know how you feel about all the things your mum wrote. They may not make much sense to you. If they don’t, that’s good. Perhaps the only thing you know for sure is the big kid next door is scary. He makes a lot of noise and does weird things. He is different. Well, you know what? It’s okay to feel a bit scared of difference. We all feel it every now and then. I’ve felt it lots of times. From those times, I figured out there are two tricks to feeling better: one is to make sure you learn as much as you can about the difference. Get to know it really well so that the strange becomes familiar. Watching and listening is great. Reading is good, too. Being in the same space as the difference, not having a fence stuck in between…That would be very helpful. Of course, a combination of all these would have you understanding in no time!

Make sense? Okay, here’s the second trick to feeling better: look for the things that aren’t different. That’s really important, because there is lots of ‘same stuff’, especially if we’re talking about other kids. It may not be toys or games or TV shows, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be anything. That’s the great thing about same stuff: it can be anything at all. Ice-cream. Freckles. A trip to to the store. A map of the world. Something bigger than an elephant. Something smaller than an ant. Whatever the same stuff is, it’s everywhere. It’s just waiting for you to find it.

How to respect difference – your mum should be providing this learning instead of me. Sadly, she is teaching you to hate and fear and fight difference instead. That’s not your fault. And here’s the thing – despite your mother’s truly terrible lesson, I believe you can still learn to do the right thing. I know kids are strong. I saw it when I was a teacher. I see it today in my daughter. I see it today in my son, who is not so different to that scary boy in your neighbour’s backyard. I would be overjoyed to see it in you.

You can write your own letter.