It’s just a butterfly, I tell myself.

A beautiful, painted lady butterfly.

With a lopsided wing that seems to be deformed on the left side . . .

Together with my young charges at theWe followed their progress day by day school I work in, we watched five tiny caterpillars, freshly hatched, fatten up and shed their skin periodically as they outgrew themselves in their ultimate quest to transform themselves into an entirely new entity. We followed their progress day by day, marveling at their growth, watching the wonder of metamorphosis unfold before our very own eyes.

But as one by one they began to form their chrysalises, I noticed with a sinking heart that the process wasn’t going so smoothly. Two caterpillars spun perfectly formed homes for themselves at the appropriate place: the top of the little container they were in. But the other three were struggling. I walked into work one morning and saw three clumsy-looking chrysalises lying on the bottom of the container, somewhat squashed and sad-looking.

When the children came to school, I explained that we were going to transfer the chrysalises to the butterfly enclosure, but I warned them about the three on the bottom, letting them know that they might not make it.

A week went by. We watched and waited.

This morning, I headed for the butterfly enclosure on my arrival at school. There was something so simply enthralling about seeing a live, fluttering pair of wings clinging to the net of the butterfly home. I was further delighted to see that the butterfly had emerged from one of the chrysalises that lay on the floor of the enclosure. He made it!

The kids were equally ecstatic. We have a butterfly! One came out! We sliced oranges and placed them carefully at the bottom of the net.

But as I moved the enclosure back to the shelf it had been sitting on, I realized that something wasn’t quite right with the little butterfly. I watched it for a few moments and saw it spread its wings, and that’s when I noticed the left one. It was hard to tell, but a tiny snippet of wing was missing. It prevented the butterfly from closing its wings perfectly, making it look lopsided and not quite as pretty as it should have been.

As the children came into the classroom after being outside for playtime and were made aware of the movement the butterfly was now making, their excitement knew no bounds. They eagerly peered into the net, and right away saw the butterfly struggling to keep its footing, that misshapen left wing hanging awkwardly, lending an inequality to the fragile balance provided by the symmetrical wings on both sides.

“It’s falling!” The children pointed out, some of them worried, some of them merely observing the obvious. “It can’t fly.”

I stayed quiet, unsure whether to mention the broken wing or to let the journey of time be the lesson for them, for even I was not certain this butterfly could not join its friends eventually.

I couldn’t help but think of people who have broken wings. The obvious ones are people like the man who sits outside the grocery store I frequent, his legs useless, his body confined to a wheelchair. Or the boy down the street who is autistic and lashes out in a rage when things don’t go the way he wants them to. The cashier at the dollar store I went to today, his eyes somewhat unfocused peering over thick glasses, his speech slurred, his actions stiff and out of sync. Or my daughter, her left hand missing parts of its fingers, and though it seems so insignificant, so little in the grand scheme of things, she brings it up at least once a week these days, and we talk about it and how it makes her feel.

I realize that what I tell her in thoseI couldn’t help but think of the people who have broken wings painful conversations is what I’m seeing today. Everyone has something “different” about them, I say. Some people don’t see well. Some people don’t hear at all. Some people are born missing different things on their bodies.

She frowns, and I continue. Some people are not kind. Some people don’t know how to share. Some people don’t know how to be happy. Some people are jealous.

She is too young to completely get it. The hurt is what is dominant to her right now, and I understand that.

But one day, she will learn that we were all created betzelem Elokim, in the image of G‑d. In His wisdom, He formed each human being, and He chose to create us with flaws. The flaws are part of His plan—for without them we would have nothing to strive for, no goal to accomplish. Every soul has a journey, and some have a journey more twisting and winding then others. But He has given us the tools to reach our true potential and to take that journey on.