Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Truth.

She wedged herself into the seat next to me and glanced at me sideways. I looked the other way. She was overweight and her fingernails were painted green. Her hair was dyed black and she was dressed in a long, black knit skirt with a black hoodie. Her whole being reeked of fads and gothicness, and my nose remained firmly attracted to the opposite wall. She coughed, then sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve. My toes curled. Any nurse-to-be knows that cleanliness and preventive measures are vital to maintaining good health. This girl was going to give me the plague! Weren't there some…some… spiders on the far wall? It certainly appeared so. But maybe my eyes were just bugging from desperation. When the teacher called on Miss Black to recite homework, she studied the end of her pencil stub. "I didn't get to that," she muttered.

And so it seemed ordained to always be. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Miss Black would wedge herself into her seat, shuffle her feet, wipe her nose, and not have her homework done.
However, one night after hall meeting, I happened to overhear Miss Black (who lived on my wing) talking very excitedly to another girl about signing for deaf people. Her face literally glowed as she described how many people do not realize the extent of deafness in the US, because the deaf have adjusted to their handicap so well. She told about the need for signers, most of all, and sensitivity on the part of hearing people to the needs of the deaf.
I was floored. This girl knew a lot that I didn't, even if she didn't know her english. I had seen another side of Miss Black--a side that I liked--a side that I wouldn't mind knowing. I was ashamed of my former prejudice, and resolved to make amends quickly.

At first there was justified suspicion in her attitude, but soon that melted into a shy friendship, and I discovered beneath the black veneer a warm, caring, sensitive personality. Not only did she sign for the deaf, but she drew amazingly well! Many times I would go to the dayroom, only to find her at a table, busily working on an assignment. One time I expressed a desire to see a project that I had only heard about. The girl brought her art folder into my room and showed me all the assignments done to that point, then she showed me how to shade using different pencils and hardnesses, and how to view using a view stick. She answered a dozen questions that I had about drawing, and even let me experiment with her charcoal sticks!
A few Sundays later, I sat near the back of the church and noticed the girl standing, signing to a group of deaf. She saw me and waved, smiling. She was dressed nicely, and obviously was very happy serving the deaf with a servant's heart.

Our friendship continued to grow, and I slowly saw the sensitive girl emerge more and more from her shell of black insecurity as she took joy in serving her chosen people.
I am grateful that God allowed me to see beneath her shell that night, and gave me a chance to "make up." I think He allowed that on purpose. I think that perhaps He was telling me,
"Missy-with-the-Upturned-Nose, don't despise my child so. I created her, and I love her. You don't know everything; in fact, you could learn a lot from her. I didn't run from the lepers. How can I use you as a vessel of mercy, if you run from everything that is ugly and hurt? You pray to grow in my likeness, yet when I give you opportunities, you ignore them. Here, take this. Eat this humble pie, and learn from it."

And I did.

The black shell is simply a shell of insecurity. It will wear off in time. And God doesn't love me one bit more than He loves her. That is the plain, simple truth.

I am no better than she is.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Story of a Princess

Sometimes friendships start in odd ways; in ways that are rather unexpected, or perhaps even unintentional. It is these friendships, I find, that often turn out to be the best, most deeply treasured friendships in one's entire circle of acquaintances…

"Hello, Beautiful!" a tall girl with flowing long hair greeted me as she entered our dorm room. My roommate had introduced me to her last week, but we had had no conversation, as I had been watching them practice starting IVs. She turned to Paula, my roommate. "I came for those notes from med-surg. Could I type them up, then bring them back?" She draped her arms around a very stressed Paula, "I'll even type them up for you!"Armed with Paula's note book, this elven lady turned back to me. "Be good!" she gaily admonished me, then she floated out of the room, leaving me wondering whether I had been dreaming or not.
I brushed it off, unsure what to think, presuming the girl was a rare occurrence, and that I would not see her again. But I did.
The next week the weather became very cold, and my blanket was insufficient to keep me warm. While I was in the middle of borrowing a blanket from Paula, the elven lady returned.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked reproachfully, "I have a blanket you can use, let me go get it." She returned with a beautiful blanket that had depictions of horses running on it. "Be careful with it," she admonished me as she touched it gently, "my mommy made it for me. I don't want anything to happen to it." When the cold snap was past, I left the blanket inside the girl's door, with a packet of instant, brownie fudge cocoa mix on top of it. The girl came to our room the next night.
"Thank you for the cocoa, Beautiful! It was wonderful; you made me feel special."

The girl became "Princess," and our friendship blossomed richly. She was one of those people who makes one happy by being happy; someone who leaves a wafting scent of herself wherever she goes, by the kindness and love which she gives to all.
Princess, as I shall continue to call her in this post, was a senior nursing student, and as I came to know her better, it became a tradition for one or the other to slip into the other's room a little before lights out to talk. She was always so good, so wise, so gentle and womanly, that I thought she must have been from a wonderful Christian background. I longed to become like her, and be known as a gentle, wise, caring woman.

One night as we were talking, Princess told me her life story, and it was not at all what I had imagined it to be. It was quite the opposite, and I cried as I learned of the terrible childhood that she had had. How, out of something terribly tragic, had she become so gentle and sweet?
"When I was about fifteen," she said, "I realized how eaten up I was with hate. I didn't want to be that way, so I gave it to God, and He turned it into love. He can take anything, even the most ugly, tragic thing, and turn it into something beautiful."
She reached out and touched my hand, "I don't want you to be sorry for me, I told you my testimony because I want it to encourage you. God can use anything for His glory, even something like that. Think of how much more so He can use smaller things! Even if we see nothing good in them at the time, He can turn it around and make it good."

Princess had encouraged me by more than her testimony, however. It was her life that I watched and learned from. I had the pleasure of observing her and a gentleman as they finalized their steps into courtship, and I had the joy of being told, by a sublimely happy Princess, "I'm in love! It feels so strange! I really do think I've fallen in love!" I could only bite my lip and try not to cry from pure joy. It was my dream for her, and now it had happened. God had poured His love into this girl's heart, and replenished many times over the lost years of happiness. He had taken this terrible thing, and through it, given her a desire to minister to girls in similar situations, much more effectively, and He had brought her a man such as was rarely found. He had been faithful.

And so, dear sisters, I pass the story of Princess on. Not to make you feel sorry for her lost childhood, but to encourage you. Most of you come from Godly Christian homes, yet you complain when a minor hurt has befallen you. You pity yourself when asked to prepare supper, and wash the dishes afterwards, and babysit the children, and get the wash done. You think that a parent is mean, or unjust, and you allow that thought to root in your heart, where it will grow more quickly than you ever thought possible. Girls, Princess would not be the gentle, sweet woman she is, if she had not realized that she must uproot the hate that had overtaken her heart.

This world needs more Princesses--girls, ladies, women--who turn tears into joy, and ashes into beauty. Women who encourage and uplift, who remain cheerful despite the odds.

Girls, it's up to you. Will you be a Princess?