I don't have thumbprints. I mean, I guess I do, but not very defined ones. I was burned when I was very young, leaving my hands, face, and thighs considerably scarred for the remainder of my life.
I've never really talked about the accident. Or the scars. Or the effect they have had on my life. In fact, there are many people who have known me my entire life that have never heard me say a word about it. Sure, I get asked from time to time "what happened to your fingers?" (mostly by children). I try to answer politely, "I fell into the remnants of a fire when I was very young."
The reasons I don't discuss this, aside from the amazing amount of discomfort the conversation causes, are these: I can wear long sleeves. I can sit on my hands in certain social settings. I can wear long gym shorts. Sometimes I can even forget that I'm different.
There are way too many people who don't have that luxury.
Many burn victims simply cannot hide their accidents. They inspire me to be thankful that my scars are where they are...mostly concealable. They remind me that no matter how bad you think you have it, there is always someone out there who wishes they could be more like you. They also remind me that boo-hooing about something outside of your control is senseless. Accidents happen. Life happens. The only thing you can do is try to make the most out of what you have.
I have never allowed myself to be put into the category: burn victim. Truth be told, my scars have always been one of my biggest sources of drive. You see, when you're different all you want to do is fit in with those who are not. It's stupid, but it's true. I have always felt that I needed to be a little bit smarter, a little bit friendlier, a little bit more out-going, and a little bit more confident to get others to accept me as an equal. Again, it's stupid...but it has always been true. So, in that light I'm thankful for my uniqueness. It's always been one of my biggest strengths.
I am disclosing this information to you here to frame my thoughts about the story making waves in the world of social media about the Tampa Bank of America branch that refused to cash a customer's check because he had no thumbs. Turns out, Bank of America customer Steve Valdez has prosthetic hands. He has no thumbprints. He could not possibly comply with the branch's security policy that requires employees to verify customer identities via thumbprint scanning.
My take? Don't be offended by the policy. Don't automatically label this discrimination. (I get offended by people who are easily offended). Let's face it, the policy wasn't very well thought out. The way the staff reacted to Mr. Valdez' physical disability was inexcusable. The entire situation was simply an admission that the bank doesn't know their customers very well, doesn't empower its employees to use their own judgment in situations that require breaking policy, and/or doesn't hire employees who are smart enough to figure which situations require such action.
I am much more outraged by the inflexibility the staff demonstrated in this case than the policy itself. Get the smartest, most compassionate people on the planet together to make a policy, and there will be something or some group that they simply didn't consider. There are plenty of people without thumbprints, but let's be honest here...how many of you would have thought of them when developing a security policy? I may have, but that's only because I don't really have thumbprints. I don't fault Bank of America for that oversight.
I do blame them for not empowering their employees to serve with compassion. I blame them for not knowing their customers. I blame them for refusing to accept two forms of identification from a man who clearly has no other way of verifying his identity. I blame them for being a bank that has proven time and time again that service is, at best, an afterthought. I blame them for making someone who desperately wants to feel normal feel anything but.