Life
Girl asks waitress “Why is your skin so dark” unfolding into tender moment
Mom's heart dropped in panic when the words came out of her daughter's mouth, then the waitress quipped back a raw and haunting response mom would never forget.
Kristin Danley-Greiner
12.16.19

Children definitely say the darnedest things. They can crack us up or freak us out with what comes spilling out of their mouths.

Holland is a little girl who adores longtime waitress Mrs. Cynthia. She works at one of Holland’s favorite restaurants, Waffle House in Fort Myers. Mrs. Cynthia has known Holland since she was a baby and always seats her in her favorite corner booth and brings her favorite raisin bread and apple juice.

By the time Hollard turned one, the family knew Mrs. Cynthia well. She had almost become like an extended member of the family.

Instagrammarykatherinebackstrom
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Instagrammarykatherinebackstrom

They chat about what is going on in each other’s lives and even pray for one another.

Holland’s mom Mary Katherine prayed for Mrs. Cynthia’s adult son; Mrs. Cynthia prayed for Mary Katherine’s battle against breast cancer.

Mary Katherine Backstrom, an author, penned a book in Mrs. Cynthia’s section of the restaurant, sipping on endless cups of coffee the waitress brought to fuel her creativity. But no one adored Mrs. Cynthia quite like little Holland.

Love What Matters
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Love What Matters

In fact, Holland wanted her birthday parties at the Waffle House. She’s such a regular there that Mrs. Cynthia places her order when she sees her car pull in. Their relationship is beautiful, full of nothing but admiration and fondness for each other.

Until one day, Holland stunned her mom with a question she posed to Mrs. Cynthia. You could’ve heard a pin drop during the silence that ensued. Mary Katherine’s heartbeat triple time.

“Mrs. Cynthia, I want to have dark skin like you. Why is your skin so dark?”

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But Mary Katherine shouldn’t have panicked. Mrs. Cynthia answered her question with an honesty so raw and beautiful that it taught Holland and Mary Katherine both a life lesson.

“Because God made everyone different! Isn’t that wonderful?!”

Holland nodded yes. But still had more childlike, earnest questions for her buddy. The most important to her, of course, pertained to her favorite Disney character.

“But, Mrs. Cynthia—if I had your skin, we could both dress up like Tiana!”

Instagram/marykatherinebackstrom
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Instagram/marykatherinebackstrom

Mrs. Cynthia couldn’t stop laughing over her little friend’s sweet response.

“You can dress like Tiana any time, honey.”

And just like that, the teachable moment was gone, a life lesson learned by Holland and Mary Katherine both.

“My three-year-old daughter sees the difference between a black woman and a white woman. Human beings aren’t born oblivious to our differences. And honestly, in so many ways, pretending these differences don’t exist is an insult. What we must do—intentionally—is teach our children to see and APPRECIATE the things that make God’s people so unique. Whether that be their race, nationality, or religious beliefs… We need to talk about these things. Because, spoiler alert: our kids ALREADY see them.”

Instagram/marykatherinebackstrom
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Instagram/marykatherinebackstrom

Even though Mary Katherine froze when Holland innocently broached the subject of race with the woman she adores who happens to have a different skin color, she realized it was because she didn’t want to mess up her response. She didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying the wrong thing. She wanted her daughter to know that skin color just doesn’t matter.

“…fear is a liar. And silence is a terrible teacher. Thank God for the wisdom and grace of Mrs. Cynthia. Moving forward, I won’t stop my children from asking questions about the world around them. I won’t shush them into silence and teach them that ‘difference’ is a dangerous or taboo topic. Instead, I will tell them this simple, honest-to-goodness truth, straight from the mouth of our dear friend, Mrs. Cynthia: ‘God made everybody different. And isn’t that wonderful?’”

What a brutally honest and beautiful parenting moment that Mary Katherine shared with everyone online. We can only hope that all children just like Holland grow up seeing the beauty inside everyone and not just what’s on the outside.

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By Kristin Danley-Greiner
hi@sbly.com
Kristin Danley-Greiner is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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