I wouldn’t have guessed that at the tender age of 9 or 10, a young boy with so few material possessions could be self conscious about the way he looked, but he was. It took me a little to recognize the way that Gabriel smiled without showing his teeth or if he giggled. He immediately covered his mouth.
But sure enough I began to see that he barely showed his front teeth at all. When I finally got a glimpse, I saw what made the poor child so embarrassed to smile with his teeth. His front tooth stuck out farther from the rest in a grabs your attention kind of way. The boys only go to the dentist once a year, when the clinic comes and Gabriel had just become a part of the orphanage so more than likely, a dentist had never even glanced at those teeth before. Poor access to dental care caused this child his carefree spirit that allowed him to laugh freely.
I’ll never know if other boys made fun of him for it or what drove him into that shell of concealment but it saddens me that a childhood, which is supposed to be a happy time of abandonment and innocence is being tarnished. Looking back on my life, childhood was the only time when I was so oblivious to others opinions and judgements that I didn’t even think about holding back and concealing some part of myself. I hope that over the next year sometime, Gabriel will get a chance to go to the dentist and get the tooth fixed. And if that’s not a possibility, I hope that even more than that he learns to shed his veil of self consciousness and learn not to care what people say or think. That’s a lesson that I think everyone needs to learn at some point in time. My mother used to say “not everyone is gonna be a fan”. Once you accept that truth, it’s easier to accept the reality that follows.