The Freedom of Love
by Mary Kliewer
In a "Life" magazine this year (1996) we were told the amazing story of Abigail and Brittany Hensel. They were born as conjoined twins - products of a single egg that for some unknown reason failed to divide fully into identical twins. The twins' particular condition, known as dicephalus, is very rare. No more than four sets of surviving twins in recorded history have shared an undivided torso and two legs.
"Each of the Hensel twins has her own heart and stomach, but together they rely on three lungs. Their spines join at the pelvis, and below the waist they have the organs of a single person. Each controls the limbs and trunk, and feels sensations, on her side exclusively; if you tickle the ribs on the right, only Abby giggles. Yet the girls manage - no one knows exactly how - to move as one being.
"Bound to each other but defiantly independent, these six year old girls are a living textbook on camaraderie and compromise, on dignity and flexibility, on the subtler varieties of freedom." These two girls forced by birth to be more firmly united than any of us will ever be by choice have much to teach us about living together. Their temperaments have been different since infancy, yet the benefits of knowing each other's personal life and ways is something they have grasped more quickly than their peers.
Obviously these girls have much to gain in living in harmony with each other - but don't we all? Teamwork and unity is a concept they have had to grasp quickly. "When they can't agree on where to go - a rare occurrence - they literally cannot move. When one misbehaves, both are sent to their room." Their father pointed out how much they watch out for each other now. Despite overwhelming obstacles they have shown how important respecting each other's dignity and individuality is without allowing selfishness to overide the necessity and beauty of unity.
In the professional business communities of Christian Corps International (CCI) we have quickly discovered the importance of what these twins have grasped - that joy, harmony and peace in living together can only come when we are willing to guard each man's dignity and set aside our own selfish pride. In learning the vital lessons of true love, ("love does not insist on its own way") in a willingness to give and take in the interests of each other, thus learning to respect