By William Engel • December 22, 2015
I was living in Florida, staring into the mirror like I do every morning. I was looking at the four distinct marks in my shoulder, the marks of fingernails recently being pressed into my skin. These marks, what happened to create them, still make me stare a few seconds longer when I look out over an ocean, or into a fire. I loved these marks, I wish they were scars.
I was in a large group of people who were preparing to go overseas to help in volunteer capacities in a multitude of nations who were prepared to receive us. We were gathering together in one location in North Carolina to meet with the leader of the organization, a large man from New Zealand, who was going to give us our send offs to hostile third world locations. I was part of a smaller team from Florida There were groups from everywhere in the USA meeting here. It started snowing when we arrived in North Carolina, the first time I ever saw snow below Washington DC.
As we were leaving our tour bus we had to take some time to help down a member of our group who was in a wheel chair. She was a meek, very kind, very shy girl who silently let us remove her from the bus as her glasses fogged up in the unusual cold. During the meeting the large New Zealander gave a wonderful speech on our missions, what was expected of us, and his hopes for our work in dismal places. At the end of the talk he had us all, maybe around 600, move the chairs out from the center of the conference room.
All the men were instructed to gather in the middle and all the girls to spread out and stand in front of each guy. The leader told the girls to hit the chest of the men as hard as they could as the men gave out a large roar (I thought this was very strange, but after doing it felt oddly wonderful). The sound was interesting as the roars of a few hundred guys echoed through the halls of our building, the roars of men who were going out to try and heal this broken world.
After this the women were instructed to gather in the middle as the men were to stand on the surrounding chairs. The men were instructed to start clapping loudly in unison. The girls were to dance "as free as they could" to our clapping beat. The girls started to all gather, the men got on the chairs and the beat started, then the cheering, then the strangely beautiful screaming, and the dancing. As I was clapping I was taking it all in visually. The women of all shapes and sizes where at their most beautiful. They seemed to completely let go of any frivolously unimportant things in the world. The whole scene something of a chaotic peace; except for one small, very quiet, very meek part.
I saw the girl on our team in the wheel chair clapping near the edge of the crowd. She was lightly clapping as she watched all the women standing, dancing, and totally free of care. This would not stand, this could not be how this world works. This girl will not sit on the side as her brothers and sisters are celebrating. I was not the only one who noticed her on the edge. As if supernaturally four guys looked at her at the same time, only four. We looked at each other and converged on her location. I knelt down near her and asked "can we put you on a chair and we'll carry you?" She agreed and the four of us, as if we had been training for this moment for a long time, without words lifted her up and put her on a green chair with metal legs. We carried her into the middle of the dancing girls and danced as much as we could for the girl on our shoulders. She stared screaming, holding onto my shoulder as if she were riding a roller coaster, her nails pushing into my skin. The women all turning to face her. She became the most beautiful of them, the most prized. The cheers amplified, but somehow all I perceived was more quite; silence, peace. I wish she pressed harder, hard enough to hurt me, hard enough to leave behind the story of what true beauty looks like.
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