Monday, May 9, 2011

The Cover of a Book

There were two new girls women at church yesterday.  They were both in their early twenties and about two weeks away from having their first babies.  Being the outgoing person that I am, I sat next to them about ten minutes before the meeting started.  They looked at me like I was interrupting, so I sat quietly until they stopped visiting, at which point I introduced myself.  I asked about their pregnancies, their babies, how they were feeling, and other general, chatty questions.  I got one word answers.  Eventually, I backed away, getting the point that they didn't want to talk to me.  I wasn't offended because everyone handles being "new" differently and shy can sometimes come across as rude.  But a few minutes later, they crossed the line.

Carol* is a member of our congregation who suffers from mental illness.  She is super eccentric and has a sometimes surprising appearance.  Yesterday was no exception.  Her black hair had grown out from her most recent dye job and she sported about a half an inch of gray roots.  She wore her trademark bright coral pink lipstick and floral old-lady dress.  Over it all, she wore her faux leopard fur jacket.  I'll admit that she was a sight, but I have also come to know and love her over the last six years.  I know a bit about her life and her struggles.  She can be mean (and kind of scary to the kids) when she forgets to take her medicine, but she can also be wonderful and interesting.

When Carol stood up to say the prayer at the beginning of the meeting, these two new girls looked at each other and snorted.  I was furious.  I wanted to lay into them and shame them for mocking a woman whose history gave her permission to be a little crazy.  Why do we do that?  Why do we think it's okay to make fun or judge another person, assuming you can figure them all out just by a single glance?

I am on my way to a new place.  I certainly hope people don't look at me and think they know my whole story.  I will likewise make my greatest effort to give people a chance before I decide who they must be.  They may look like Carol and I may decide they are crazy, but they may also BE Carol and I would be remiss if I didn't give them a chance.

*Name has been changed.


  1. I keep writing & erasing my comments. Thoughtful post - aren't you a little glad that you get to move on to another area?

    I think this experience goes along with a funny truism: "I was a really great mom before I had kids". Life experience will eventually teach us all that we need to know. Hopefully, we learn the lesson without humiliating ourselves or other people.

  2. I understand there are plenty of "free spirits" in the area you are moving. I think you will get to practice what you preach. I love your kind heart.