Beauty has always been the perfect unattainable dream for me. As a little girl, I dreamed of men fighting for my hand like in the fairy tales that I read. Compliments on my looks elated but also scared me because I feared not being pretty enough. When I walk across a busy street, part of me longs for everyone to gasp in amazement. Of course, the other half of my mind screams for me to run and hide. Yet I still want to look graceful and elegant if I choose to flee.
This longing for attractiveness is not simply superficial. I have equated beauty with goodness since childhood. With the stories I immersed myself in, I learned that the lovely heroines remained shy and pure yet always found their true love. Now, I still love fairy tales and the classics I read. However, my Aspergian brain took this connection literally; good is pretty and bad is ugly.
The other day, however, I was confronted with an example of true beauty that shocked and touched me. Ever since than, I have been eager to share this story. Hopefully, you will also be inspired by this amazing example.
Last week, I struggled in one of my classes. Someone spoke in a shaming and cruel way that deeply upset me. In fact, I considered getting up to leave class or confronting them right there. Instead, I stewed in anger. After all the hard work I did, the critical thinking I applied, the kindness I attempted to show – how dare they treat me this way?
Suddenly, the phone of the girl next to me went off. She quickly silenced the device but the belittling person told her that sometimes people whose phones ring must bring snacks to class. My frustration only grew greater. Unless you purposely play with electronic devices during class, bringing this type of attention to yourself is punishment enough. After leaving the room, I pondered giving her a hug and saying how bad I felt for her. Yet my insecurity held me back.
Our next class period, this Wednesday, this young woman entered our classroom and handed each student a cup. On the cup, she had written “Teacup” because the professor had told us a story about teacups one of our first classes. Into these containers, she placed a tea bag, caramel apple sucker, Skittles, and Laffy Taffy. As I watched her walk around the room, my respect of her grew. Finally she put one in front of the person who had scolded her. Looking into their face, she smiled with no malice at all.
Then I realized that this is what people are speaking about when they say to turn the other cheek. There was no pride or shame in her face. Although she served us, this girl did not grovel or apologize repeatedly. Instead, she showed true beauty and grace by offering love even to those who belittled her. Guilt did not drive her to do this deed but care and pure beauty in her heart. My anger melted away into awe and respect of her.
Now, I do not think that one should always turn the other cheek. But too often we jump to battling to prove our point. Another strong but tainted view our society has is the importance of outer beauty. This experience helped me to see that beauty can be seen through actions and words. When I feel ugly or lost, I am going to remember this story and the gorgeousness of this woman that slipped out into her actions. This was an important lesson for me to learn.