I noticed you from the start. I chose you as a favorite because Evangeline is my favorite name in the whole world, and Angeline sounds just as musical as it escapes my mouth. You probably don’t know of the Evangeline that inspired me. She was an angel of a girl in a book; a little one who loved everyone with a naive, powerful love that made you feel special. When I met you, Angeline, I knew you carried something angelic.
There is a lot about you I will never know. That is the cost of speaking a different language. I don’t know what it feels like to be you. I don’t know how you experience life or what you see in your rainy-day reflection.
What I do know is that you wouldn’t look into my eyes.
You wouldn’t respond to my questions; you’d just sit like I’d never said anything. You kept your smile hidden away for reasons unknown. Your mom answered my questions about your favorite games and what you like to do at home. Your mom told me that you don’t go to school; you’ve never gone to school.
I asked what you’d love to learn and you told me you wanted to write. You are way past kindergarten. You should’ve learned how to write by now. As a writer, I wanted you to know how to write, too.
Every once in a while there comes through the wards a patient who needs something extra special.
I really wanted you to know that I thought you were special.
I’m sad for the way your body betrayed you and the way the local healthcare system failed you. I can’t tell you that. I don’t know enough about you to assume what you’ve gone through.
I DO know how hard of a time I’ve had with my own pimple-marked face and spider veins down my legs. I can only guess that if one side of my face was disfigured, that I’d skip out on school too.
I started wrapping my hair, coincidentally, at the same time that my acne was at it’s worst. It was a conscious reminder to myself that what matters is what’s inside, and people that matter don’t care how I look.
So as we finished wrapping the Coban around your dressing that covered your head like a swimming cap, I had an idea.
Let’s decorate you. Let’s celebrate who you are in spite of the fact that you will always look different.
There are little girls and grown women across the country and across the world that hang their heads in shame. There is something wrong with them and society won’t let them forget that they are different. I don’t want you to hang your head in shame. Maybe you’re just the shyest child I’ve ever met, but God says he will lift up our heads.
Lift up your head Angeline.
Rob Bell tells a story about lipstick in his book Sex God. These tubes of red lipstick restored a sense of humanity and worth to a group of depraved, dying Holocaust survivors. It made them feel like SOMEONE.
Hair wrapping is like red lipstick. Totally unnecessary and very superfluous, but it celebrates our beauty. Hair wrapping does this for women with low confidence, women with hair loss, or for anyone who has forgotten her identity for too long.
My deepest prayer is that your headband made of wound care supplies did the same for you. The headbands with small bows, with flowers, with geometric designs, with big flamboyant bows… they were a message from God to you.
I can never know for sure whether you liked the headbands we’d create for you at each dressing change. I can never know whether you got the message.
I can never know for sure whether you believed Kirsten when she’d claim this mantra over you:
You’re beautiful. You’re special. God loves you.
Angeline was a young girl with a tumor to her forehead and temple that extended to her R orbital space (eye socket) and pushed it forward. Her face looked normal on one side and quite disfigured on the other side. She will probably never look normal, although her tumor is gone. We pray with all our hearts that she felt our love and will come to know that she is accepted. Many won’t see her outer beauty; we hope her inner beauty always shines brightest.
It’s hard to speak into lives for a short time, without knowing the plans God has for them down the road, but that’s our greatest responsibility and privilege at Mercy Ships.
I feel like I’m slipping my prayers in a bottle, dropping it in the Indian Ocean, and hoping it makes it’s way back to me. When, and if, it returns to me, I hope it has a picture of a smiling, radiant Angeline who knows how to write beautiful stories, and knows how beautiful she is.
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How do you celebrate your own beauty? What do you want to say to other little girls like Angeline? Tell me in the comments below.