“What was that that just walked in…”
The lady was standing with her husband in my check-out line. The entrance doors opened and she walked in: Mid- to late-teens, black hair, bright red lip stick, black cropped top, black short shorts, pale skin, waist-length leather jacket even though it was pushing 90 outside, and knee-height boots (black, of course). What most of us would think of as full on Goth. I’m 6’1” and with those boots she could look me in the eye.
Striking would be the word I’d use.
Not glamorous. Not ugly. The girl was striking.
She was also with her mother.
The reaction of the woman in my line—under her breath and after the eye-roll—was, “What was that that just walked in?”
I don’t know if she was talking to me or to her husband, but neither of us answered.
As karma does, within about a minute, the mother and daughter circled around and came to stand behind the couple. Again, another side-long glance. Another whispered comment. Again, neither of us, the husband or myself, heard it.
What was that that just walked in?
The what was a who. A girl. A teen. With a story. A past. A history.
One that this unfortunate woman will never know because she had already written her own for the girl. And even more unfortunate, the woman had already condemned her for this ‘history’; the one of her own creation, without ever knowing or talking to her.
Without ever talking to her mother, either; who was with her by the way. Pleasantly talking to the girl the whole time. Without fear or condemnation.
Oddly enough, her mother seemed to accept the girl’s style choices.
Yet, still, this other woman couldn’t. That young girl’s upbringing had already been written and she just couldn’t overcome the preconceived notion of who she thought this teen to be long enough to even look at her. Or smile. Or nod. Or say ‘hi’. Or ‘boo’. Or whatever it is that those people say to each other.
It’s something we all do; I suppose it’s human nature, this innate need to judge others around us. I suppose it’s some form of inner insecurity that compels us to see some as “lesser” so that we can see ourselves as “more”; to see some as “worse” so we can see ourselves as “better”. Our history is riddled with this type of condemnatory thinking. We’re riddled with it, every time we come across someone with a different speech pattern, different skin color, different religious views, or different “lifestyle”. Every time we see someone without a limb, without certain mental faculties, wearing ratty clothes and curled up in a doorway in one of those neighborhoods, someone with different facial features or a speech impediment.
As a society, we’ve become so hardened in our own images, and with the images we project on others, that we no longer even see what we’ve become in the process: marblized, immovable, lifeless. We’ve gotten so calloused that we are no longer even concerned about expressing our judgmentalism in front of others. Or about others. Others who have lives, histories, pasts.
As a people, and especially as Christians, we encounter those who Jesus saw as “the least of these” all the time. More often than we’d like to think. Or know. They’re pretty much everywhere. They’re pretty much everyone.
In fact, they’re us.
And each and every “least of these” have, or at one time had, mothers. And they still have a Father, whether you choose to see it (or Him) or not. And, whether you choose to like it or not. Even whether you choose to care. Or not.
So the girl was striking. She was also really nice. Kinda shy, soft spoken—you know, like a teenager.
And the mother was nice, too. Friendly. She probably would have talked to this other woman if there had only been some acknowledgement.
But that would have shaken this older woman’s world: The world she had created for herself, and for others.
That’s a scary situation to place yourself in, having a well-manicured, perfectly ordered world thrown asunder like that. But it’s also incredibly freeing. And it’s the right thing to do.
I can only pray that your world is shaken some day, that you’re rigidly formed mindset is thrown asunder, and that you come through as a better person for having it done.