Beauty – how we see the world

Beauty – how we see the world

by Sr. Jo Anne Kelly MMM                     Ireland                              15.02. 2024

I woke up this morning, here in Bettystown, to a very windy wet morning. The sea was so turbulent, with waves leaping up, the whole scene white with surf. There was a wild beauty in it.

I read somewhere recently that the graced eye can see beauty anywhere because beauty is already secretly in everything. I wondered about this as I recalled some of the times when it was difficult for me to even think of beauty.

In my first mission I worked with people who had leprosy. Their beauty was in their eyes their character, their smile, their endless patience. But I saw no beauty in the awful wounds and sores on the feet of some. The leprosy itself had deprived them of their ability to feel pain so when they got a wound they just continued walking and working and the wounds got worse and badly infected.

In my training as a physiotherapist leprosy was never mentioned so I had to discover for myself how I could use the skills I had. Sr. Teresa was our nurse with many years of experience and before starting each morning I would check with her if anyone new came in with the mobile team the previous evening whom I might be able to help. One morning she said, “I need your help with this one, you can learn”. The man was Jacob. He was sad and despondent. All his efforts had come to nothing. Both his feet were very bad, and one was beyond ordinary dressings and bandaging. It was awful! Teresa said “This one needs a Plaster of Paris (POP) but first we have to get it clean. She had young people there well trained in cleaning and dressing, but she taught me herself to do this one. It took about two weeks, and it was ready. I asked her who puts on the POP. She said “You can, I’ll show you”. I was accustomed to having patients come to me with POP before and after a fracture but I never before had anything to do with the plaster itself.

All was made ready. I knew how the foot should be positioned. I tried to listen to her careful instructions, and I was assisted by Augustine whom she had already taught. I was quite nervous and apprehensive. Timing was important while the plaster was still wet. A “heel” was included to take the weight away from the area of the sore. We were to leave it on for 5-6 weeks. That was the first of many!

Meanwhile Jacob was given wooden crutches made in the carpenter’s shed and he went to work in the shoemaker’s shed to make himself a pair of “padded sandals”. In those early days we did not have leather or plastazote. The sole of the sandal was made from the strong rubber of old motor tires with a lining of foam. The straps were made from old tubes.

Five long weeks past. Teresa said we’d wait another week. The day came. I watched Augustine cut the plaster with big shears. With Teresa watching I very hesitantly removed the dressings and behold, there was a new fresh pinkish skin where the wound had been. That was beautiful but the look on Jacob’s face when he saw it was even more beautiful. He just put up his hands and said “Praise and Thank you God!!”

Pope Francis says “The world needs beauty more than ever as beauty can awaken a thirst for God. Beauty puts us in touch with the Divine goodness and inspires our faith.”