Sunday, January 09, 2011

Faces In Our Midst

Like snowflakes, faces are individual and unique... but we don't always "get that". I remember as a young child, riding home at night in the backseat of the family station wagon. We had been at friends for dinner, or my Grandmothers' or out to eat. I would look at cars as they passed or as we passed them, and wonder about the people inside? People who's faces were shadowed in the evening darkness, vaguely illuminated by the lights from their car's dashboard. Who were they? What were they talking about? Were they happy? I never really bothered to delve further into my imagination because soon they were gone from my sight... out of sight, out of mind... their faces fading from memory so quickly. And there was usually another car following in their wake.... and of course, the same questions about the new faces in the current car crossed my mind.

Growing up, and exploring new horizons, I met all sorts of people... people from all over the world, from various backgrounds, ethnicities, faith beliefs and philosophies- people with different faces. And yet despite our differences, the thing that strikes me when we came right down to it, there were more similarities than I had originally realized, and these are the faces that once so very different to me were faces that I grew to cherish.

As I continued to grow and become an adult, I became vaguely aware of the faces that much of society doesn't notice or want to notice. And like society, I didn't really want to see them either- because it was unpleasant and not pretty. Over time, I've come to realize that these faces, are people just like me, and just like the people I comfortably know. One particular face haunts me to this day.

Earlier this summer, I was riding in my sisters car, and we had gone to look at a used car that my nephew was interested in buying. We were in a part of town that we normally would have avoided. And we were comfortable, and eager to get back to our regular stomping ground. My sister was accelerating up the on-ramp onto the interstage, and I was looking out the window. And suddenly, I saw a man, sitting on the ground in some brush.... and we made eye contact and his face is one that I will never forget. The day was blistering hot. He was clearly hungry and thirsty. I wanted to help, but we couldn't stop... and even if we could have, would we have? Because, after all, we were uncomfortable.

In sharing this with some friends, I shared my remorse and my sadness. I shared that my heart ached for him... that somehow I wanted to help him. And I shared my guilt that I had felt fear and unease, and the shame that had we been able to stop, would we. My friends understood... they said they would have wondered the same thing. Not a proud moment. And I said, you know... that could have been Jesus sitting there. And they agreed. We then talked about, what we could have done. Someone shared that they carried water bottles and apples, and that when they encountered someone in need, they gave them one of each. Someone else carries gift cards to fast food restaurants, and gives them out when she comes across someone in need. And we agreed that we could and would always pray for homeless and/or hungry people that we encountered. All good ideas, all things to do. It just takes time, and thought. And in caring for these vague, lost and needy faces.... we could be caring for Jesus.

Today, I encountered a new face in my midst. I was visiting my Mother, and an aide came in to see my Mom. There are many aides working at the nursing home where Mother lives. Many faces, yet I only know a few of their first names. We chit chat about this and that and I know that they take great care of . But we only know that they work there. We know nothing about who they are, what their joys and sorrows are, what their dreams are. Yet it's all vague... their faces blend all together

The aide handed my Mom a booklet, and said "See, I remembered! I promised to bring you one as soon as I had it!" My Mom smiled... and was very pleased. My sister and I had no clue what this was all about, and the aide explained that she writes poetry, and that she had "self published" a book of her poems. I was surprised and impressed. My Mom looked through it, and set it aside so that she could visit with us. My sister glanced through it, and put it down in order to get something for my Mom. I picked it up and thumbed through it, vaguely interested to see what it was about.

As I read, my vague interest evaporated and I was quite taken with the words I was reading. They had depth and heart... amazing emotion and insight. The vague face of the aide came into focus... this face was individual and unique, and in my opinion, quite talented. I'm not a good judge of poetry, but when someone's written words can have such an incredible impact on another "face", this time my own, it loses any anonymity it may have had.

So I have to wonder, about all the other faces that are in our midst. Hundreds and thousands... many I'll never really see, many that I will never know. Yet they are not to be written off. And in not really seeing each of these faces for who they really are, I have to wonder what each of us is missing.

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