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Weeks have passed since I viewed the movie “The Help” and subsequently read the book. The content of both continues to plague me. I cannot get the characters out of my head. I relive the events daily, wondering what they and I have in common. Finally, it dawned on me. I had been repeating the marvelous words of affirmation given to a not-so-slim little girl who sensed her mother’s dismay, if not disapproval.
Whenever Aibilene told her charge that she was kind, smart, and important, I heard in my being the need for each of us to note and affirm the goodness of the other. At the core of our spirits and souls we are good. We were created good, created in the image and likeness of God who is nothing but good.
What happened to our original blessing? Who or what did we allow to take away the bliss of being wondrous human beings? When did we forget that fact? How did we get to the place where life became dualistic, when it was either you or me, us or them?
So often we claim beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is a great comment, but it is also one that has led us into seeing things as we are, not as they are. When I am in a good mood, all is well with the world and all the people in it. When I am feeling poorly, irritated and irritable, so do I see the world about me as fuel for my illnesses. No longer is it good that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Now is the time for my “ayeness” to take hold. Now it is time for me to see the worth and wonder of all creation and to view it as an asset to my life, as a vehicle for my own validity.
I need, we all need, Aibilenes in our life. We need people who will tell us that we are kind, smart and important. We need them to underscore our goodness, to remove the dualisms that cause us pain, to help us to integrate all that we are in a wholesome inclusivity. We need to take back our holiness, to seize it from the negativity born of false pride.
My growing up years, as may be true for many of my age and older, were filled with false pride. We were carefully taught to hide our talents, to be demure in the face of compliments and hopefully to ignore them. My mother feared God would take away any goodness others noticed, so she admonished me to be silent in the face of honors. To enjoy their reception was tantamount to being filled with pride.
I find that strange kind of hiding from God’s giftedness and generosity to be prevalent in many people today. They cannot accept compliments without offering a denial of sorts or a pious response that promotes God but demotes themselves in the process. This “either/or” lifestyle keeps us from being truly holy. If I cannot accept personal goodness, how can I see it in others? How can I possibly find beauty in my “aye-ness?”
Tragically, this lack leads to prejudice and bias. It brings us into a certain hopelessness and negativity that colors our outlook with bleak despair. No one and nothing will be good enough. Everything will be tinged with imperfection. Given a beautiful, pristine outlook on life, we will search for the one tiny fault, blemish, or undesirable feature and concentrate on its erasure. Gone from our eyes and ayes are the wonders that surround those disfigurements.
When I was young, well, younger, I noticed the advancing presence of vitiligo. It appeared to my eyes as a defect that blurred any beauty I might have. I disliked having to explain away my appearance to those, usually little ones, who dared question me about it. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why did I have to deal with white areas of my skin that would appear without command and move without demand, surprising me with my own lack of control over them?
It took both the eyes and the ayes of a beholder to call me to task. You know, I’ll bet, that it was Hubby Dear. He noted my blemishes as good, not evil. He asked me to consider the animals that were equally spotted, and yet thought to be beautiful, strong and important.
It took some time, but eventually I lost sight of the spots that once disfigured me and saw in his “aye,” and thus in my own, a uniqueness to be appreciated not ignored or denied. One day, a parishioner approached me to ask if she could speak to me about the vitiligo. She wanted to know how I could facilitate Bible studies and give workshops when I was clearly disfigured. Her need to know was based on the fact she was similarly bestowed with mottled skin and had spent her life hiding it with gloves, long sleeved garments and pant suits that covered her from head to toe.
She admitted she wanted release from that confinement but was unable to achieve it on her own. When she saw me “out in public” she was encouraged to be the person she was, no matter that her skin was not perfect.
At the time, I was not fully aware that my beauty was in the “aye” of my Beholder God who wished to use me for purposes I could never imagine. My disfigurement was to be the vehicle for another’s entry into fuller living.
When Aibilene’s affirmation of Mae Mobley, a little girl whose life depended on being described as kind, smart and important, comes to mind, I smile with remembrance. I become ever more committed to doing the same for others.
So, if you see me accomplishing errands or at meetings or wherever and I am slow to tell you of your goodness, remind me that beauty is in the “aye” of the beholder. I’ll be grateful for your assistance.