To Reteach a Girl Her Loveliness

Sunflower - Day 135
“The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
or everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within”
- Galway Kinnel

I have been inundated with babies. Over 100 of them to be exact. These babies are White, Latino, Black, fatherless, a few months old to a year or two, loud and crying, soft and shaped with eyes of wonder. These babies have mothers, too. And their mother’s? Well, most of them are barely old enough to drive a car, much less vote. Some are as young as fourteen. Some of these mom’s could easily be my daughter, and their children my grandchildren – which is about as strange a consideration as I can imagine.

These are the women, the girls that make up the numbers to politician’s statistical rants for or against abortion, poverty, low-income education flaws, or the failings of America. These are the girls who are fodder for cocktail conversations about social injustices and deteriorating culture. These are girls who are pitied with statements such as “isn’t that a shame?”

I can say all this because I am one of the guilty. I have subtly boxed off this whole population with pity, dismissal, and, at my worst, callousness. And to some degree it was still easy to hold such a position when these women first stepped off their buses and cars for a week in the Texas Hill Country. They had armor on. They had the look of distrust. They carried in their eyes the defeat and sense of dismissal that they had seen in too many faces. They had forgotten their loveliness. That was day one.

As the week went on, as each girl was treated with respect, had doors opened for them, were cared for, and loved on by mentors, or a babysitter, or even one of the few guys around that served their meals… things cracked. The armor started to fade. Perspectives changed. Their Creator seeped through those cracks with words and wooings about how they are really seen, who they are before all this ever happened. They became girls – girls with children, but girls all the same.

And in my eyes I saw yet another human trying to become more the person they suspect might be, I saw women become girls. They shared their joys in being mothers. Over and over I heard them say they do not regret having their child, only that they wished they had waited longer.

”to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely”

By week’s end, at the last dinner, each one of these girls dressed up in their best, and they seemed to walk with wings. They were smiling even when they weren’t, they were alive and laughed…. not the laughter that is hiding tears, but real, deep, joy laughter. And most seemed to be comfortable in their skin, as if they were trying it on for the first time.

"...until it flowers again from within”
Kendall R1 Comment