While sitting at a coffee shop, a soft voice politely asked if she could share my table. I obliged by moving over my cup of green tea and my newspaper. The young woman before me was very petite, dressed in a silk suit, and she had the most beautiful sea-green eyes. Immediately she attempted to hide half of her face with her hair, which had noticably been burned. She, having delt with peoples responses to her scars and appearence on a daily basis was waiting for my reaction, so I just smiled at her,
"Don't hide your face, your beautiful. Own your beauty."
She sat down beside me a little suprised and said, " Your not going to ask how it happened? Everyone asks. "
No actually I am going to share a story with you. When I was sixteen our family moved in the middle of the school year and I was transferred into a new school district. I didn't really know anyone at my new school, where at my old school I had grown up with everyone. Instead of riding home with my friends after swim practice or walking, I had to take the bus home because our new house was too far from the school to walk. The bus got all the way to my street when I realized I had forgotten my house keys in my locker back at the school. Knowing I was the new kid on the block the bus driver offered to swing me back by the highschool, let me get my keys and she could drop me off again if I could endure sharing the ride back with the elementary school children. My parents were both working so I thought it was the best option at the time and off we went. I got my keys out of the locker and then we pulled up to the elementary school.
I was sitting in the back seat and noticed the kids filled up the bus quickly and quite loudly. Then all of a sudden silence fell upon the bus as a little boy, who could not have been more than 6 years old walked down the isle, his entire face was wrapped in gauze, and his hands were too. The silence was broken when one of the children yeld out " It's the mummy." The bus broke into laughter and out came the insults, which flew through the air like emotional bullets. "Burner boy" Pow. "Wax face" Pow. " Your so ugly only your mom could love you." Pow. Even I was shocked by the cruelty, but the little boy wrapped in bandages kept on walking, unflinching and no one would move over to share their seat. Except me. I slid over, smiled and told him he could sit with me. He smiled back. The principle had been standing close by the bus and heard all the commotion. She stepped on the bus with the weight of her authority it was quiet once again. " The priniciple walked over to where we were sitting and asked if the little boy in bandages if he was alright. The little boy nodded his head. In a speakerphone voice she said, " Listen up! He is new here. He just got out of the hospital and has been through a tough time. No more name calling or teasing. I expect you to treat him with kindness and respect. He needs friends right now." She winked at the little boy in bandages as she stepped off the bus and said, "I'll see you in school tomorrow. Keep your chin up." I think the little boy in bandages was moved that the principle had stood up for him because he was trying to wipe his tears from his eyes while hiding his face behind the leather bus seats. When he looked up, he was greeted by the bright blue eyes of a little girl who was in the seat in front of us, she had turned around in her seat out of curiosity to look at him, her long blonde hair falling like a halo everywhere. Her sweet voice finally broke the silence,
" I'm sorry they are so mean to you. I think your beautiful, bandages and all."
The little boy in bandages smiled like the sun.
" You should come by my house to play sometime. I have a three legged dog. My mom said no one wanted to adopt him because he was different but she said it was up to us to love him and give him a good home no matter what he looked like."
Those two children showed me in one moment, how the power of kindness can heal a broken heart. It is a moment I have never forgotten to this day.
" Do you know what had happened to the little boy to cause his burns? "
Yes. When I arrived home the evening news had a feature story about a father who flew into a rage, killed his wife and set himself, his home and his two children on fire. The little boy in bandages was the only survivor, covered in 3rd degree burns all over his body, including his face. The story made note that it was the little boys first day returning to school since his tragedy, it brought tears to my eyes.
She asked, " Whatever happened to the little boy in bandages? "
I have no idea, but I wonder sometimes what kind of man he became, if he is still overcoming, if he has been blessed in life after all his hardships.
I explained to her that I had alot of friends die that year and when I would get down I would think of the little boy in bandages that would keep going despite the tragedy, despite the loss of his family or the pain of being ridiculed for his looks. This precious little boy had been through so much, yet he still found the courage to keep going and so could I. The little boy in bandages taught me to see beauty in unlikely places, to be kind to people regardless of their physical appearence. When you grow up in the beauty and fashion industry, you learn quickly beauty can be decieving. My mother's best friend Laurent would always say, "Beauty is as beauty does." I get exactly what he means now. A loving heart does not always match the pretty face or the hot body. Sometimes things can be the opposite of what they appear. Finding both in one package is rare. Learning to see beauty in things not so obvious is an art form of distinction unto itself.
" I can agree with that but sometimes it is hard for people to see beyond appearences. Majority of people only see my scars."
Well I can relate, I was blessed with big lips, big boobs and a big butt. My dad has a bubble butt, my mom has wide hips, put the two together and you get this (pointing to my butt.) They say in cosmetic surgery for lips, surgeons use the skin off the buttocks because it is so soft and most closely resembles lip tissue. Well if that is true, I could donate one of my butt cheeks, have plenty left over and still have people kissing my ass all over America and a few third world countries obsessed with plastic mouth surgery. (laughs) In highschool I was in the pool at 5 am swimming 100 laps every morning, I still run two miles on a treadmill in the gym, I don't eat sugar, I consume less than 50 carbs a day and my ass and boobs still aren't going anywhere. (laughs) Well on the bright side at least I won't ever need breast implants, collagen injections or a butt lift! I think at some point in your life you have to learn to accept your own flaws, and find humor in them because if you cannot love yourself, take the good with the bad, how can you expect anyone else to?
Scars remind me of the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery called Kintsugi. In America we would just throw the broken pottery away, we disregard what is unattractive to society because we deem it imperfect. In Kintsugi, they take the broken pieces of pottery and fix them by filling the broken spaces with a resin sprinkled with powdered gold, thus increasing the value of the pottery. Our society, erases the wrinkles, runs to the plastic surgeon, nips and tucks, when much of your beauty and value is in the distinct features and characteristics of who you are and what makes you, you: scars, flaws and all.
You look in the mirror and see your scars. I see Kintsugi and a heart filled with gold.
The truth of the matter is, if I cannot find and see the beauty within myself and my own imperfections, how can I ever see the beauty that is in you or anyone else? To find beauty in unlikely places, it begins and ends with me.
Today, find beauty in your imperfections and seek out beauty in an unlikely place.