One Person Removed

The overly crowded parking lot was an accurate predictor of the longer-than-usual line I would find in the post office the busy week before Christmas. As I settled in to wait, I noticed the gal in front of the person in front of me. From my vantage point, one person removed, I observed.

She was about my height, but it was difficult to guess her age. She was wearing boy clothes – black denim jeans, worn and frayed at the heels, cowboy boots, a hooded Carhartt jacket – and holding a pair of work gloves in her left hand. Hair that had been obviously colored at one time, now lay limp and stringy, not having seen shampoo or a comb in many days.

Animated by a frequent facial tic, her expression was otherwise slack. Her eyes were slightly drooping and vacant and her chapped lower lip jutted lazily causing her mouth to sag open. When she spoke, her teeth revealed years of neglect.

The lady between us was petite and well put together. You could tell from her appearance that everything about her life was orderly. I could feel her discomfort when the disheveled girl turned around to engage her in conversation. After a momentary hesitation, she responded with enough warmth to be socially acceptable and enough distance to discourage further interaction.  This I observed from the safety of my position, one person removed.

Why did it surprise me that the girl in boy’s clothes seemed confident, intelligent, and unashamed? Maybe because I expected the downcast demeanor typical of those who suffer the ridicule and abuse of being socially different. She did not seem to realize that she was different, that she had breached an unwritten class boundary.

There really isn’t a point to this post except that here I am still thinking about her a few days later. I wonder why she doesn’t take better care of herself. I wonder why I felt the urge to clean her up. I wonder about those unwritten rules about who may talk to whom. I wonder why I feel so unsettled about the entire situation.

I wonder…what if I were not one person removed.

8 thoughts on “One Person Removed

  1. Thank you for such a thought provoking post. It occurs to me that a good many people viewed Jesus the same way as you describe the woman…..just a little too different.

  2. We live in a small coastal town of about 20,000 come summer holidays the tourists take all “our” parking spots and the lines at the Post Office are getting way to big!!

    Grace .. I look at others like this all the time, a park bench is a good place to pause and look at other’s lives in motion God has touched me I have no choice but to translate this love to others … You say you don’t see a point to this post – I do, it’s about how we view others – how they look on the outside quite often determines our responce and a whole bunch of assumptions.

    If you don’t Post between now and the 25th – HAVE A GREAT Holiday Season and thankyou for what you have shared this year.

  3. I sent out my Christmas emails yesterday and included the following. I just thought I’d share. It seemed fitting.

    I hope this Christmas is filled with joy. Christmas has always been for me the loneliest time of the year. Being an orphan usually means sitting at home reading a book while most are living it up with family, and most years I receive not even a single Christmas card. I am not alone in my aloneness though. This year, please consider the orphans, the homeless, the outcast. This is the time of year when for this demographic, suicides increase. Embrace someone who looks lonely, and please don’t let anyone sit at home alone, invite them to join your family this 25th. Please. Being alone is no fun.

  4. Grace I think that a lot of us don’t know what to do with our perception of who and what people are based on appearances. I think it’s a really good sign when we question that instead of just going on with our prejudice.
    May God Grant us all the grace to change.

  5. Sonja, I would agree that she could be Mary as well. I have frequently contemplated how we now venerate Mary but she likely bore the stigma of having given birth to a child “out of wedlock” for her entire life. I can just hear the whispers of the passersby as she walked the streets of small town Nazareth. Then she had that crazy son who would not stay home and take care of her. He also kept stirring up trouble with the authorities, Roman and Jewish. What kind of son did she raise? Must be punishment for her having that child “out of wedlock”.

    To me, Mary is the first and foremost example of the sacrifice, yet joy, of following Jesus.

  6. That gal could be any of us, given a different set of circumstances.

    I love to engage people – get them to tell me their story. Sometimes their story will evoke such compassion that all of heaven will be standing behind you to assist. Then I ask them if I can pray for them……. That’s where it gets real interesting….

    Often times, they just volunteer their story – and that’s great too.

  7. Sorry to disappear! We enjoyed some much-appreciated time with our families over the holiday.

    I appreciate the wisdom and insight that you all shared on this post. How we see others affects our ability to love. I still have much to learn.

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