Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Courage as a Way of Life

I hesitate to mention this, since it could easily be viewed in a "sideshow" way. However, on this occasion my better instincts are at work, and I'd like to ask you to look at this situation in an empathetic way.

Last night, as I was doing my crunches and channel surfing, I came across on The Learning Channel a documentary on a pair of conjoined twins, formerly called Siamese twins. These girls, Abby and Brittany Hensel are 15; they are two distinct personalities, two people. Each girl has a head and a face and a mind, and otherwise the two of them share one body, each with feeling on her respective side of that body.

At first glance, it didn't seem possible. After watching them being interviewed for a few minutes, my startlement wore off and they seemed to present simply another of the endless million variations on ways to be human, on how to be confident, outgoing sixteen year old girls.

One of the experts interviewed said that the singlets in the world have a couple of important things to learn from those who are conjoined. One is openness to a wider range of human differences, and the other is cooperation. Brittany and Abby have to somehow come to an agreement moment by moment about their every action, and they have to coordinate movements, each of them in charge of one arm. Even so, they manage to drive a car, type email, etc. I can barely imagine the complication and difficulty of that.

Neither they nor their parents treat them as limited. Their friends seem to see them as two regular girls. Anyone who ever felt odd in high school would have to be profoundly impressed by what these girls take on every day and treat as normal life. I'd add a third item to what I can learn, and that is courage as a way of life.

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Debra W said...


I watched that show, too, and was absolutely fascinated by the way that the girls were able to do almost everything that a regular teen can do! It seems to me that the parents had a lot to do with how the girls are turning out. They always encouraged them to be themselves, and they always reminded them that they could do whatever they put their minds to. I loved the part when they were trying to figure out if they should have one driver's license or two. They insisted on two and I thought it was wonderful that they did that! Like you said, these girls use courage as a way of life! Well put!

Peggy Payne said...

I was very much impressed by the parents, too.