My fingernails are ugly – they are short, uneven, brittle, peeling – just plain ugly. Yet they are a very tangible reminder of my trip to El Salvador, a way for me to never forget my experiences there. For about the last twelve years until a few days after I returned from El Salvador, every two or three weeks, I would religiously relinquish $20+ to accessorize my appendages. My nails were fashionably formed and filed; professionally preened and polished. Until El Salvador. There I was exposed to poverty and oppression as I had never seen it before, and it caused me to re-examine my priorities and the use of my resources.
One word that constantly clamored in my head was “enough.” When God created this world, it was created so that there would be “enough.” God’s intention was that there be enough resources for all of the earth’s inhabitants. Somehow, though, in our greed, we have skewed the world as God originally intended it to be, so that there are a few who have many resources, and many who must share a very limited amount of resources, and some who have no access to resources at all. So many people lack education, healthcare, water, food and other basic human needs. Clean water is a precious commodity in El Salvador. We privileged humans, particularly in the United States, take so much for granted. How could I possibly spend $20 every few weeks on outright ostentation when there are people in this world who lack the most basic human necessities?
El Salvador was an exposure to and an exposure of my humanity, a peeling away of some of my protective layers, causing me to examine the real “me.” In a strange way, I had taken pride in my fingernails – they disguised my short, stubby fingers and drew attention away from other parts of my being that I would rather others not see. By removing my nails, I can no longer hide behind acrylic aesthetics. Their removal not only signifies a shift in priorities, but symbolizes a new level of openness and vulnerability for me. Scary stuff … but necessary.