While shopping at Target a few nights ago, my son and I passed the same couple every few minutes, and each time we saw them I was moved nearly to tears. I’m writing today to try and sort out my intense reaction.
The man’s appearance didn’t make much of an impression, so I took few mental notes: thick, straight, brown hair, pale skin, tallish, thin, t-shirt and jeans. He looked happy, but mostly he looked at the young woman beside him. This woman’s external looks were similar to and as ordinary as his: long, curly, light brown hair half way down her back, pulled away from her face with a simple headband, pale skin, she was maybe 5ft 3in in height, wearing a t-shirt and jeans.
By “common” standards, they were both average. Neither one had big beautiful eyes or long lashes, or a face that could launch even one ship. Yet she positively radiated, sort of bounced, floated with every step, a smile like a rainbow playing on her lips seemingly continually, and the way her eyes danced was magic.
I’m inclined to stare at people regardless of their looks or manner or whether their appearance happens to momentarily enchant me (which is not normally the case). I like people. I like to know their stories, fears, hopes, ideas, insights. When I’m out and about, I tend to hold my gaze too long, but really, not long enough if we haven’t said “Hello,” or at least acknowledged each other. Human beings are mysteriously amazing and to simply walk by someone without noticing them is impossible for me. I do exercise wisdom. If I get a creepy vibe from someone, I say a little prayer as I walk past and concentrate on my own thoughts and not their unique potential for beauty. Here’s hoping I have a working radar.
Anyway, this woman absolutely captivated me. I wanted to ask her if we’d met before because I got the feeling that maybe we had, or maybe we should, though most likely I met her in a dream, as I have first encountered so many friends in the black night of my soul’s wandering. But in that moment I was too shy. This hesitance to speak up comes and goes. That evening it was dominant, so I simply appreciated her from afar, scrolling time-past to see if I could locate her in a waking memory. Then they were gone, and my focus turned back to shopping.
Hours later she came to my mind. Again, I went over her purely physical looks. No, nothing noteworthy. Then I was struck by a thought that I still have not been able to fully grasp. That woman probably looks in the mirror and sees average looking back at her or maybe she even dislikes her looks. Not uncommon. Her beauty is so evident, but it emanates from something she will likely never see in a looking glass. Surely she is aware that her company is appreciated, and she no doubt attracts men easily, but there is also a good chance that she compares herself to models and actresses without even knowing it. I’d be happy to be mistaken on this point.
What saddens me is this – So many men and women are average or even unattractive when the criteria is strictly physical (and largely dictated by the media). And this strictly physical face is what meets each of us in the mirror every morning. Unless we have an animated conversation with ourselves right there over a toothpaste-encrusted sink, we’ll likely miss the light in our own eyes, and may even forget it is the larger part of what others witness. We’ll miss the beauty of our own smile in action and the particular way our mouth moves when we talk. We can’t see how well we reflect our friend’s joys and sorrows back to them, or how much we love them. Basically, we cannot see our own beauty, because beauty is a soul in motion, being alive out in the world.
How many of us trust this to be true and give up judging our appearance based on factors that have little or no actual weight in the true balance? I’m not suggesting we should all throw in the towel and forget about being careful to present our physical selves trimmed, made up, well dressed, or whatever one thinks of as important (personally I pluck my eyebrows and try to keep my unruly hair looking somewhat orderly). Rather I’m thinking how lovely it could be if we each knew that our beauty really does emanate from the inside out. Period.
I’ve had more thoughts while meditating on my strong reaction to this woman’s looks, but they are personal. I’ve been reflecting on my own twenty-something days, and how people reacted to me. I begin to wonder if I was, in a way, looking in the mirror when I watched her bounce around Target. To explain why would be to dive into waters I am not ready to explore on paper as there is a lot of pain in that river. I expect I’ll be coming back to this brief non-encounter often, and that within it are many, many gifts.
image found here