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.