“Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I’ve always loved this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which I read and reread as a child.
I was in a coffee shop on a hot summer day. A beautiful young woman walked in. She was the sort of creature who causes heads to turn wherever she goes. That was obvious. Most of us in the place couldn’t take our eyes off of her. She flipped her bouncy, golden mane just so, like an actress in a hair commercial. It’s hard not to picture her, even now at a distance, without thinking that she moved in slow motion to a bouncy soundtrack. She wore gladiator sandals on her pedicured, tanned feet and legs. She had the sort of white dress that all but the most “perfect” women avoid. Her large purse added a certain cool factor, which she hardly needed, and one could assume it was stuffed with the accoutrements of a busy, active, complete life.
The next person who came through the heavy glass doors into that space was a woman in a wheelchair. She navigated the space well, accustomed as she was to maneuvering, yet she was unable to blend in at all due to the size of her conveyance and because her disability was so glaring. She didn’t have legs at all. Her body sat in that wheelchair, her erect torso and strong arms moving her about. Her face, clothing and style were rather plain. She was hard not to look at, but she didn’t receive the same sort of attention as the tall, gorgeous woman in line in front of her.
We can’t make generalizations, so I won’t, about how that beautiful woman might be a bit superficial, and the disabled one might be deep and wise. But I have lived long enough to know that gold is often hidden in the hearts of people who have had some major challenges, at least those who have borne them well and grown from them. And sometimes the folks who’ve been able to trade on external success (looks, education, position) have not yet had, or taken, the chance to accept the gifts of limitations and disruption that often usher us into deeper places and softer hearts and help us know of what we are made.
Yes, it is only with the heart that one can see rightly… so let’s look beyond white dresses and wheelchairs. And maybe we’ll see the invisible beauty within each of us.