Paul was a broken man, but he was also a man with stars in his eyes. When he was eight years old he fell off his bike and broke his nose. It never healed quiet right and so always appeared just a bit off, slightly more than crooked. His parents, who prided themselves on their looks, always cringed a little when they looked at their son. They were indeed beautiful people. Everyone thought so. But Paul was beautiful too, even with his broken nose.
It’s impossible for a child who is bright and sensitive not to notice how his parents look at him. In every other way, they treated him with love and care, but their family vanity snuck in and soured poor Paul. He came to value himself less. He felt shy and self conscious about his nose. He grew to hate how he looked, and resent that his parents seemed perfect. He spent more and more time by himself.
His parents didn’t know what to do. They were clueless to how their actions had affected their only son. They only saw that they had done their best to provide for him and to love him as best they could. They watched him rebel and pull away with sadness.
When Paul was 15, his father decided to send him to a summer camp in Wyoming. Paul had spent his entire life in a big city. The wide open spaces where intimidating and challenging. In the camp Paul learned about nature and the science of ecology. He learned how to survive in a wilderness setting and how what you did was more important than how you looked. Paul made friends with kids he would never have met in his life in the city. And he grew to forget his broken nose and his self doubt.
One night the camp went star gazing. It was a clear cool night. They were so far out that no human lights dimmed the stars of the night sky. The moon had not risen yet, but the sky was alight with the glow of the milky way. Paul lay on his back in the cool grass. He was mesmerized by the immensity, and the beauty of the sight before him. He felt so small, so tiny and insignificant amongst the glow of the universe. He lay there as if he would sink into the ground and disappear.
Just when he thought he was gone, a hand touched his. It held his in a gentle grip, it was like a life line back to reality. Paul turned his head and saw it was Tracy, a girl he liked. She looked at him and smiled a small timid smile. She had tears in her eyes. Paul blinked and realized he too had tears in his eyes. He squeezed her hand and they both turned back to gaze at the sky.
Paul knew that his life had been changed. The tears dried and were replaced by the stars. Paul felt he belonged. He felt he was loved. He decided being broken wasn’t so bad when you knew that you would heal. He stopped judging himself. In his heart, he now knew being beautiful was more about being a part of the universe… and the universe doesn’t care how you look.
We should all turn out the lights… a spend more time gazing at the stars.
Day eleven of “Face Lines… and Story Lines”
Words and image by Cicely Robin Laing©2014