The thick Kenyan dust filled my nose as the African sun scorched my eyes. The nine hour drive to Chemolingot was anything but glamorous, but the Kenyan terrain was magnificent. Sweat trickled down my brow and my back as we continued to change elevation. Despite the rough roads and the blistering heat, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beauty that surrounded me.
My mind kept reverting back to the saying, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”
I was on a mission to discover beauty from the eyes of Pokot women.
My recycled notebook was smudged and bent from the plane ride, but it survived the 15 hour travel in my dirty backpack. The pages were open and ready to endure the ink stains that would unlock the beauty secrets of the Pokot women. As I started to journal I asked myself a few questions. What was I on a mission to find? Was there really a breath taking beauty secret waiting to be unlocked? Did these women know something about true beauty that American women were missing? My questions began to answer themselves as I began to talk with different women along the way.
One common denominator between how we view beauty and the Pokot view beauty was appearance. Women loved their dresses and their jewelry, and if you were “well prepared” then you were physically beautiful. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s obvious, Taylor, every woman in every culture enjoys having a nice physical appearance.” After mulling over my notes while pouring anti-itch cream into bottles, I discovered something deep below the surface of the physical. I began to read between the beautiful lines scribbled across the pages. Their beauty began to speak to me, and I boiled it down to three secrets that painted the beautiful smiles across the faces of the Pokot women.
3 Lessons In Beauty
1. The Spirit of Thanksgiving. I have never seen so many women smile with a genuine smile of thanksgiving. The smiles among the faces of the Pokot could have provided light to our lightless rooms. When we gave pillow case dresses to the young girls, their mothers expressed gratitude for something they could not give their children. The girls receiving the dresses were overjoyed that they had a new dress to replace the ones that were caked with enough dirt to supply the foundation for a new home. They know what it’s like to live without so they are thankful for the smallest of joys. This to me was among the most beautiful characteristics. The spirit of thanksgiving can make a woman radiate when she is in the most tragic of circumstances.
2. The Spirit of Open-Handed Living + Sacrifice. A friend and I were reminiscing about our time among the Pokot. We spoke of the joy the Pokot women received through their open-handed living and sacrifice. We would see women sacrificing their shoulders to carry sticks for miles to build a fire to warm their family. She remembers a woman walking out of her mud hut to offer her a beautiful bracelet that took countless hours to make. Another woman placed an egg in the offering basket on Sunday. My friend reminded me that this was probably the woman’s food for the day and one of her only earthly possessions. Tears flowed down my face as we shared these memories of beautiful sacrifice. The ability to sacrifice and give in order to make another smile is a beauty trait that transcends time while physical beauty withers.
3. The Spirit of Community. Pokot women realize and act upon the need to live in community with one another. My friend said it perfectly, “They resist trying to go through life alone because without community one would cease to exist. They recognize and affirm each other.” These women refuse to raise their children alone, cook alone, and live alone. They refuse to compare themselves because they know that they are in this life together. When they sing, they sing together. When they talk, they build each other up. When a child is sick, they will band together to nurse the child back to health. When one woman speaks of her friend, she calls her “sister”. Each woman’s life is enriched by another. Together these women bring peace among their tribe. Who could think of anything more beautiful?
I could go on for days. My time in Kenya left a wonderful stain on my heart and mind that I will forever cherish. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would leave with a different perspective on beauty. When I sat on the plane, I realized that the Pokot didn’t have mirrors, and I wished that I didn’t have mirrors in my life. I knew that this was impossible, so I told myself that each time I looked in the mirror to check my make-up or hair, I needed to see the reflection of my inner beauty-the true beauty that you can’t see in mirrors. The beauty secrets the Pokot women shared with me will never cease, they will always be with me and now with you.