Yesterday, after returning from a women’s retreat that included a three-hour drive through the Allegany Mountains, I stopped by the store to pick up a few items. As I approached the entrance, I saw a familiar face strolling along the curbside headed towards the same entry door. It was one of the store cashiers who was returning from a break. She was talking on her cell phone to someone about issues related to a job corps. I entered the store and went on my way to get my groceries.
When I completed my shopping, I noticed that same cashier had opened a lane and was wiping down the counters while waiting for a customer to arrive. Although no one was waiting in her line, I passed her register so I wouldn’t have to face the social ills that make me uncomfortable. You see, a few weeks earlier, I was at her register and noticed she had bruises on her neck and chest and her arm was in a bandage. When I asked her what happened, she said she was clumsy and had fallen down the stairs. The shapes and location of her bruising made her story implausible. What challenged the strength of my heart strings even more is that she had severe dental issues and appeared to be six months pregnant or two days postpartum. My lack of desire for seeing her bilious condition is what caused me to pass her register. Then the parable of the Good Samaritan came to mind. Luke 10:30-35 says, “30 This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. 31 By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. 32 Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. 33 Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. 34 The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night. 35 The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.” (The Voice)
Feeling convicted, I prayed Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath as a prayer. It says, “Give me Your eyes for just one second. Give me Your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing. Give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted; the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me Your eyes so I can see.” My grandmother’s voice then spoke to me and said, “If you don’t get your rump back there…” My mind shrieked back, “But I have nothing to give!”
Still feeling anxious about what I would encounter and what God might call me to do, in an act of obedience, I turned my cart around and went to her lane (all the while praying that I would have a genuine and positive reaction to her.) I then asked God again to allow me to see her through His eyes.
She courteously greeted me. As I stood in front of her and she would not make eye contact with me, I quickly realized that injustice in her life was all too common. Her alcohol-atrophied skin, meth-ravaged teeth, and native Virginia dialect that made southern Ebonics sound like the king’s English, told a story of perpetual marginalization of a disenfranchised life.
James 2:18-20 tells us, 18 “I know what you’re thinking: ‘OK, you have faith. And I have actions. Now let’s see your faith without works, and I’ll show you a faith that works.’ Don’t you realize that faith without works is useless, like a glove without a hand or a hat without a head? 19 Do you think that just believing there’s one God is going to get you anywhere? The demons believe that, too, and it terrifies them! 20 The fact is, faith has to show itself through works performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty soul.” (The Voice)
I first noticed that her stomach was flat. I wondered if she lost her baby or circumstances required her to return to work immediately after delivery. I didn’t ask, I just prayed. I also saw that her previously bandaged forearm had a Japanese script tattoo. When I asked her the significance of it, her gaze raised from foot level to knee level as she told me it was her name. I asked when she got it, where she is from, and if she gets to see her family often? With each question answered, her line of sight adjusted to my waist, then chest, then shoulders. When she finished ringing me up and handed me my receipt, I told her thank you. I pushed my cart a few feet as she began helping the next person in line. I paused, called her by name and said, “have a nice evening.” She smiled, looked over her shoulder into my eyes and with great sincerity said, “Thank you so much.” I then realized I did have something to give. I gave her basic human dignity and respect.
The encounter made me understand that justice is best administered through the fruits of the holy spirit and that injustice is caused by a deprivation of the fruits. The experience left me with this:
- This world is not just but we can bring moments of justice to it
- Regardless of one’s condition, love has a soothing essence
- Every moment is an opportunity to disburse kindness, goodness, and gentleness
- Curbsides and mountainsides are equal when it comes to sending and receiving joy, peace, and patience
- Faithfulness and self-control go a long way in building His Kingdom
Margaret Anderson says, “As I look at the human story I see two stories. They run parallel and never meet. One is of people who live, as they can or must, the events that arrive; the other is of people who live, as they intend, the events they create.” In the Kingdom of God, the two are designed to meet and on His demand, frequently do. Proverbs 30:12-13 reminds us just how close we are with, “12 Don’t imagine yourself to be quite presentable when you haven’t had a bath in weeks. 13 Don’t be stuck-up and think you’re better than everyone else.” (MSG)