The pool is big. It stretches far and wide. I dip my legs in first, then lower the rest of my body into the cool water. Not cold, but refreshing to the humid soaked skin. How nice the water feels.
There are three men at the other side of the pool. They stare. If not for the conversation Marisa and I had just shared on the the walk to this place, I think I would be nervous.
“They would do anything for you,” she had said. “They will feed you, even if they have no food for themselves. They would find food for you so you can eat. Even if you are not hungry.” She paused a moment, “To them we are so special, just because we have white skin.”
I had shaken my head, amazed.
How can the color of your skin be so important.
And so the men at the pool stare. I am not used to the staring yet, but I am not so uncomfortable as I first was. As we talk I just keep my eyes on Marisa, trying to ignore the ones fixed on us.
We swim and speak of our countries–our homes. She is curious about America and asks many questions. I, also, about Germany. She talks of her village, and I talk of my state.
The pool is not so deep, but it is far. We swim and become tired and rest. Then off again, to the other side. The water feels so nice. We no longer talk. The men begin to talk, though.
Still, they are staring.
I can tell they are speaking of us, because they have said the word “white”. One of them says we are good swimmers. They do not speak English well, but some of the words are the same in Tagalog, their native tongue.
I am swimming on my back and I smile. Most of the Filipino people do not swim well, so to them my not so effortless swimming is good. I chuckle to myself.
They see it, they see me laugh at what they say, and they smile. One of them says, “See, she smiles. She thinks funny.”
I smile up at the beaming man.
Yes, sweet sir, I think you are funny.
I think you are funny because you think I am more special than you. I think you are funny because you take notice of me. I think you are funny because you dare not swim close to me.
None of them comes into the pool. They sit on the edge and are content to watch us.
It is maybe twenty minutes before they decide it is too hot to be so fetish. They jump in the pool and swim. But they keep to the other side. They do not willingly swim near us, but we make them because we will not keep to one side of the pool.
We pass the men as we swim. We stop near them and begin to talk. I am laughing with Marisa when I glance at the man nearest me. He looks at me and holds my gaze. He is not ashamed that I have caught him looking. He smiles so I smile back. I look at him and smile.
“They are not ashamed to look,” Marisa had told me days before. “Even if you catch them looking at you they will not look away, they will keep staring. If you smile at them it makes them so happy. You can see their happiness… It is so silly.”
Yes, it is so silly. But if I can show these sweet people that I love them–that I care about them, even if they have brown skin, even if they are poor and sweaty and filthy–then I will do that. I will hold their gaze and smile at them. I will put my love into my smile and do it wide and full and kind.
Indeed, you can see the man’s happiness when I too am not ashamed to look at him and my smile is full and beautiful. I look and smile. And yes, I see that some of his teeth are missing and that his face is old and that wrinkles are starting to eat away his youth, but to me he is beautiful. To God he is beautiful. And this Filipino is a fellow creation–a master-piece of God. And who would dare insult the Creator’s work? Even if the skin is brown and covered with dirt. His soul is what matters and his soul is reflected from his joy. How can you not see that and rejoice and praise God for this glorious work?
This man indeed is beautiful and I stare him straight back as if our souls met in a collision of love and brotherhood because we are fellow creations of the Almighty God.
And I think… I have made this man’s day.
Marisa is speaking and I turn my smile towards her and laugh at what she says. And out of the corner of my eye, I can still see the man. He is beaming, and that makes my soul reflect his joy in a heart-pounding contentment.
Too soon we have to leave. The men had become comfortable with our presence by then and had been laughing with each other. But when we get out to leave, and the water drips from my shorts and T-shirt and Marisa wraps a towel tight across her skin, the men stop talking. They watch us in silence as we collect our things. We walk to the pool-yard gate. Almost there, I turn back and say goodbye. There is only one man whom I can see from where I am, his head bobbing above the water.
“Goodbye,” he says. And his smile is bright, a clear description of his beautiful soul.
In Christ Alone~EleyanaFaith