“As any action or posture long continued will
distort and disfigure the limbs; so the mind likewise
is crippled and contracted by perpetual
application to the same set of ideas.”
Today at work I helped a man, his wife, and their young son. They were looking for help locating an accident report from the 60s. The man had been injured while serving in the New Mexico National Guard. He walked in with a bullet in his forehead, pieces of shrapnel scattered in his head, and a broken spirit. His nails were long, as was his silver hair. For a brief moment, I was frightened. I am not sure of what? Maybe it was my fear of the unknown, or maybe it was coming face to face with tragedy? For a few moments, we exchanged direct eye contact while he began spilling his heartbreak out for my analysis. Though one side of his face was severely disfigured, there was gentleness in his eyes. In that moment I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of. He was harmless. He and his family needed my help. The old me would have stayed scared. I am so proud of the woman I have become. If I judge, it is only momentarily. All of my fear now falls away when I can see deeper into someone. I focused back in on his story when the fear subsided. While in a small New Mexico town, the man was seriously injured while preparing to leave for Vietnam to fight in the war. While his company was preparing their weapons to make the journey, he was shot through the head when a bullet accidentally ricocheted. With every word slipping from his shaky, ashy lips I couldn’t help but wonder how painful it was for him to rehash this story for me. It takes the guts of a real man or woman to speak of pain. The man I helped today, never made it to Vietnam. Instead he began the battle of his life. It was his battle with the emotional and physical pain of disfigurement. Unfortunately, his war will not end until he and his family members are all gone. I took the time to thank him for his service to our country. I also told him that my father-in-law was stationed in Cam Ranh Bay during the Vietnam War. He seemed to find some comfort in that. We are all disfigured in one way or another. Samuel Johnson had it right when he said that our thoughts can disfigure us just like physical injuries can. I believe Johnson was referring to negative, egotistic, and empty acts. It is important to see beyond what is on the surface physically and mentally. By the time the man had finished telling me his sorrowful tale, I could only see the uninjured side of his face. Slowly he had turned away from me. I could tell he felt more comfortable when I couldn’t see that which he wanted to hide. I wanted to tell him it was alright. I understood his pain. I didn’t mind his flaws. Our scars, our pain, they make us beautiful. These things confirm that we are human and that we are not invincible. When our mind or our body is disfigured, we must remain optimistic. The imperfections of that man reminded me that it is so important to use my psyche and my spirit to extend a hand to those in need.