The French Were Wrong

Two blonde veterinarian students review for a large exam at the coffee table to my left. Tucking their hair into long pony tails, they discuss bovine disorders and throw out rhino-something terms that leave me in the dust.

Nestled into a corner beside me, a slender woman with short silver hair and a teal parka rustles papers about World War II nurse rosters, and I glimpse attendance sheets and columns of names. My curiosity mounts and I try to restrain myself.

In the hair salon yesterday, I sat under a black plastic shawl as the stylist cut my hair. The beautiful Lebanese-American with a striking nose and tempestuous black curls tied behind a yellow bow told me stories of a five-year old her, moving into a step-mom’s home who “never wanted kids.”

I blinked back tears, too embarrassed to cry at Great Clips, while my stylist matter-of-factly said, “I just tried to be gone a lot. I watched the people at my friends’ houses to see how relationships should be.”

I bit down tears, and opened up too, saying how thankful I am for God’s gentle love for us and work on me. We talked of our families and hopes and I remarked on her compassion and involvement in her sisters’ lives.

A day later, and she still comes to mind. I smile and think of her resilience, and pray for her.

Growing up as a young American in West Africa and France, I soaked up those cultures. Returning to the United States twenty years ago, I still find myself a product of those rich cultures and experiences. One French social law that slips into my actions some days says to not engage in extended conversations with strangers, since it may trivialize or cheapen the concept of friendship. (Can you see why the French are mistakenly perceived as aloof or cold sometimes to foreigners?) The French themselves don’t mind breaking this rule now, though, and I remind myself to also.

Stop and see the people around you today, friend. The coffee barista with the Austrian accent, the college students with their upcoming exams, the tired mom in the checkout lane who may visibly relax at the comment of how cute her toddler is, and your lovely hair stylist with untamed curls.

Stop. See them. Smile into their eyes, and receive the gift of meeting them. 

Linking with Ann, I count gifts of people today at A Holy Experience

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  1. Dolly@Soulstops on September 25, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I loved learning more about your back story, and French customs, or what used to be customary…giving thanks for God's gentle love with you, my friend πŸ™‚

  2. cairncottage on September 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Hi, Jennifer! I've always been intrigued by and could sit and observe complete strangers…especially when going to the mall, a ball game, or any place full of people. I work as a receptionist at a church counseling center and get in some very interesting conversations with the clients, as they check in, check out, or sit in the waiting area. Your conversation with the Great Clips lady reminded me of the saying, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
    Blessings, Ann @ Christ in the Clouds

  3. Floyd on September 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I think our Father has placed each and every one of the people that we come across everyday in our lives and they have purpose. I too watch and engage people. All of us are wired the same and are looking to matter. Good for you for using the heart that our Father blessed you with. Interesting history…

  4. HisFireFly on September 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    stop, look, see
    great reminder here
    this is what Jesus calls us to as well

  5. Pam on September 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Lovely, Jennifer. You are so right about stopping and looking into eyes… I didn't know that about your growing up years. Loved your photos too! I love capturing these little moments on the blog the way you did here…

  6. Dontmissyoursunsetlady on September 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Love how you make something so simple beautiful with your words. I'm glad the verse on my blog blessed you!

  7. Lisa notes... on September 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I didn't know you grew up overseas. What rich life lessons you must have picked up from being in other cultures and then returning to the U.S.

    I got my hair cut yesterday too and my stylist was incredibly thin; she'd been through cancer a couple years ago and still hasn't recovered. Lots of heartaches and reasons to pray all around us!

  8. Sara on September 30, 2013 at 2:26 am

    I am thankful that you took the time to "Stop. See them. Smile into their eyes, and receive the gift of meeting them." this weekend as we shared space at Camp Lebanon! Your genuine kindness and love of Christ is truly evident!

  9. Jennifer Dougan on October 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Merci, Dolly. πŸ™‚ Thank you, friend.


  10. Jennifer Dougan on October 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm


    What a helpful way to look at people, remembering that they may be fighting invisible battles inside. Thanks for that. πŸ™‚


  11. Jennifer Dougan on October 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Floyd,

    "All of us are wired… and looking to matter." –So true. They are there on purpose, I agree.

    Have a great week.


  12. Jennifer Dougan on October 2, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Hi His firefly,

    You are His, and loved. Thanks for stopping by.


  13. Jennifer Dougan on October 2, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks, Pam. These posts are neat ways to get to know each other more, along the way, huh? πŸ™‚ Thank you.


  14. Jennifer Dougan on October 2, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you, TJ.


  15. Jennifer Dougan on October 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Hi LisaNotes,

    Noticing those small details like her cancer-induced fragility is what starts many of those conversations, huh? What a neat thing to be able to open our loves to each other and pray for each other. Glad you could with her that day.


  16. Jennifer Dougan on October 2, 2013 at 11:28 pm


    You were fast at getting on here. Thanks, my new roommate, for your kind words here. It was lovely meeting you and your mom and sister this weekend, and to hear your heart for students– both here and in Haiti. πŸ™‚

    Looking forward to round two this weekend. Blessings to you. I've been praying for this time too.


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