Posted in Relationships

See Me

DSC_0063 (1)

 

His eyes locked in on mine and the whole depth of his life was etched on his skin, the skin someone had once loved.  Maybe he was still loved, but I saw the story in his eyes and it stopped me.  It stopped my breath and I looked away.

He didn’t say anything, but he asked with his eyes.  Without thinking, my daughter and I opened the door and hurried in with the other assortment of customers; hurrying into the dollar store for super bargains and cheap deals.

It wasn’t until we were all the way in that I noticed the door was shut and he was still outside, but I kept moving, diverting my eyes. 

My daughter was the first to act, walking purposefully back toward the door.  She didn’t say a word to me, but as she opened the door she said, “Hello friend, may I help you?”

He quickly looked down and then glanced back up as he said, “Yes, thank you.  I need to do some shopping.”

His wheelchair was a later model, worn and frayed at the top of the backrest, and basic black, totally utilitarian.  I could tell he had been a tall man, because his one long leg remained, half filling the space of the chair, while his hands gripped the armrest.  

The chair was his home, with a cushion to sit on, and a cloth pouch tied onto the back of the seat holding a grocery bag, bandana and well used water bottle.  The chair was moved solely by the strength of his arms, which would turn and push the large, dirty, frayed wheels.  But, his face…his face frightened me because it was so rough, yet so incredibly tender and open.

There was a beautiful, kind quality to his face that reached out as if to whisper, 

“I’m still me.  I’m still in here, in this tired, worn shell. Can you see me? The real me?”

Shame crept into my body, as I hurried over to hold the door. My daughter gripped the handles behind the backrest and with a strong push, helped him over the threshold and got the bag from the back of his chair.

“There you go,”  she said.  “Anything else I can do for you?”

“No, thank you.  I didn’t think I would make it in,” he said, looking down.

And he shyly wheeled himself forward, down a crowded aisle with greedy shoppers.

She took no credit for this action, as I told her how proud I was and what a kind thing she did.  It is a part of who she is to help the unfortunate or downtrodden.  It was a quiet lesson to me to keep my eyes open, my heart soft and my hands ready to help.

Shame, whether his or mine, does not teach us anything except to abandon ourselves.  Perhaps he had old shame lurking nearby, I really don’t know.  But, I know my shame at not following a faint nudge to help a fellow human, lingers still.

I learned a lesson that day that came from my daughter who was not afraid to open a door; not afraid to extend her hand.  A lesson I hope I will always remember.

Posted in Friendship

For Out of The Abundance of the heart, The Mouth Speaks

 

For Out of The Abundance of The Heart, The Mouth Speaks
Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

 

Words can heal us or hurt us.  The spoken word is undeniably powerful.

Perhaps we should all have to obtain a  license to speak; for some people have no filter, no compassion and according to the scripture…no heart.  We could all share stories of words that have wounded our souls.  No one escapes this life without an insult or offense, and sadly we ourselves are sometimes the perpetrator.

 

Today we are witnessing calloused words thrown back and forth on television and in the news.  Angry, slandering terms so effortlessly spoken. Is there no alarm that goes off inside, warning the offenders to stop and think before they speak?  Are these insidious words actually a reflection of the speakers’ heart? Maybe there is venom flowing through the veins, not blood; otherwise, how could so much hurt be inflicted?

 

I’ve been cursed by more than a few high schoolers.  As an educator for many years, I have also observed the hateful, hurtful flying words between teenagers who are in pain and wishing to inflict pain or get even.

I’ve been sliced by an unthinking acquaintance, I’ve been bullied by someone claiming to love me.  And, sometimes, even more hurtful has been a silence, the unspoken word of a darkened heart. I have almost seen the painful word as it lept from its cave. Certainly, I have felt it.

 

How is it that we fellow humans send these fiery darts?  Have we forgotten the old admonishments of “Think before you speak”?  Are we so intent upon hurting other travelers that we purposefully strike fast and deep so as to stop them in their tracks?

 

My dad used to admonish me with “Aren’t you going to fight back?” or “Don’t let them get away with saying that!”  But, I have always been taken aback when someone was rude or hateful to me. I continue to be surprised when someone acts unkind and I am slow to respond with equal vengeance.   Perhaps I am naive or Pollyanna-ish, but I firmly believe that ‘hurting people… hurt people’.  

 

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

 

I do believe that there are vipers whose intentions are not good, but I am convinced that there are other ways besides cutting words to take up for myself and feel safe.

 

If only there were x rays able to see into the hearts of others. Whether it would help us or hurt us, I do not know.  For each of us is responsible for our own words and what we do with them.  Someday we will all be held accountable for what we spoke and the hurt or help that our words intended.
If we could remember to THINK before speaking:  Is it Thoughtful? Honest? Intelligent? Necessary? Kind?  Perhaps then,  we could reflect more goodness from our hearts and not hatred.