March 29, 2007

My Neighbor Lily

I take Maisie for a walk pretty much every day. We generally take the same route every time. Two days ago we were out on our typical way, a street over from ours. A lady I'd met one time before came out of her house, I'm pretty sure she saw me coming and decided she wanted to talk. She had previously called Maisie a boy and I didn't correct her. I didn't figure I'd see her again. When she came out this time, she did it again. I wheeled Maisie in her stroller up the lady's driveway to chat, where she realised she was a girl. Lily, as she later introduced herself, is fairly old. Probably late 70s but it might be more accurate to guess in her 80s. She kept mentioning various boyfriends she'd had throughout her life and never mentioned a husband...

Anyway, she remarked on how beautiful Maisie is, as people often (ok, ALWAYS) do and said she would probably be tall, could probably be Miss America one day. Lily asked if I'd watched the show the night before.

"No, but I saw that Miss Tennessee won" I said with feigned enthusiasm.

"Yeah, I can't believe it. She was a mixed girl". I couldn't believe THAT.

"Oh, I know, she was BEAUTIFUL!" I said genuinely, acting like I didn't catch what she meant.

This led in to a racial slur-laden conversation about physical appearance, the other black Miss America contestant, beauty and ugliness. Some of what she said was so insulting, I couldn't believe she wasn't even bothered by it. Most people, including the older man we ran into this past Saturday at the yard sale, will lower their voice because they know what they are saying is inappropriate, but Lily just let loose.

I am angry that people remark on Maisie's loveliness and then slander black people. I feel like her beauty is maligned with their ignorance and predjudice. Then again, it so far has provided me two opportunities to challenge some probably life-long predjudices and maybe provoke some inner change in those people.

Lily said something awful about black people being ugly. Even as I type this I'm uncomfortable and angry. I said "Oh, I don't think so."

"You don't?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, waiting for me to explain.

"I don't know how anyone can call ANYONE ugly. We're all made by God. That's like telling God He didn't do a good enough job. Do you feel comfortable doing that?"

Her answer was unexpected. "Even God's own son was ugly."

"I don't think so. Where does it say that"

"Isaiah 53." I was surprised - she even listed the verse.

I answered "Well, it says there was nothing about him that would draw our attention to him. That doesn't mean he was ugly" (and I thought later, that had Jesus been ugly, that would have drawn people's attention to him...I guess he was one of those faces you just sort of forget, unless of course you actually came within earshot of him. You would probably never forget that encounter). "Well, anyway" I continued, "I can tell you he sure as heck wasn't white."

"Oh really?" Lily said.

"If he was from Israel, he looked like what people from Israel look like, and it isn't blonde hair and blue eyes and white skin."

She didn't really seem phased by that. We talked for a little while longer and I pointed out the back of our house across the ditch and over from her driveway. She seems sort of lonely.

It's quite obvious that these two encounters are not random chance. I'm a bit bothered that it seems that God has seen fit to use Maisie's beauty to bring about situations to challenge people. But, she is His first, then mine. I hope I can teach her to see the beauty of God's handiwork.

1 comment:

  1. I literally have tears I am so touched. I realize how hidden I am from these types of encounters, so much so that I forget this type of hatred, or just plain lack of understanding, exists in our 'civilized' world. It makes me sad that people don't see God's beauty in each other. I am left to wonder how many people will have an opportunity to encounter God in a new way through you and Maisie, and how many hurting and lonely people will get a touch of God's love through your hands, your smiles, and your words. Dear Lord, that we might each surrender ourselves willing to be you to the people around us...

    Bless you my dear sister Jenn.