Saturday, June 25, 2011

Different Than Me

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I saw him when I went out to get the mail. He was leaning against his car, and the hood was popped. He was stranded in front of my neighbors house on a hot Texas day.

I had seen him before. He has been delivering papers on our street since the day we moved in. I even called on him before, because he always drove so fast down our cul-de-sac where kids roam around and ride their bikes. Thanks to God's grace, I was kind in my phone call, and he must have gotten the message; he stopped driving fast after that.

Yes, I had seen him, but I had never spoken, maybe a small wave here or there. To be honest, I always wondered if he was, I don't know, a little strange. He would drive with the windows down and always seemed to be talking to himself out loud. I thought maybe he was singing, but I wouldn't really hear any music coming from the car. Sometimes, I even wondered if he had been drinking. He never scared me though, and I never worried for my kids' safety except for the fast driving.

And yet, I found myself wanting to meet him. What was his name? What was his story? Was he from here, and how long had he been delivering papers?

And this day, as he stood out in the heat, car stranded, I decided to set aside my to-do list and my selfishness (by God's grace again) and ask if he needed help. He had a phone, but no one could come for a while so I offered my jumper cables and van. Of course, I had to make it very clear that I had no idea how to hook them up. Thankfully, he did.

As we stood out there together, both sweating in the sun, I couldn't help but notice our differences; he was much older, probably in his 70's; I'm 36; he was black; I'm white; he was a man; I'm a woman; he knew cars and what he was doing; I had no idea-I just did what he said. 

And yet, as we stood out there together, human-to-human, both created by God, our differences blended together, celebrated in my mind. I wonder what we looked like out there, a young, white woman and an old, black man, laughing and talking as we, or he, tried to get his car started? I bet to some we looked like an odd pair, but I like to think that we didn't look out of place. Two very different people on the outside, enjoying each other's company, and maybe not so different on the inside. 

I think there is a deep beauty in differences. I think it is OK, even great, to notice differences. I think they, our differences, should be celebrated. But to be honest, I don't always do this. Sometimes my patience is short due to differences. But when I take the time to stop and talk to people that, in some ways, are completely different than me, something wonderful happens. It cracks open part of my selfishness and gets me outside of myself. So often, it's in these differences that I am reminded of the love that God has for ALL people. It's in these differences that I catch a glimpse of God. 

His car never did start so I invited him in until his ride could come and get him. He said, "no thanks." I offered to take him somewhere since it would be a while before anyone could get to him. He graciously said, "no thanks," again. He was just content with waiting next to his car, and he had "plenty of water," he said.

He taught me something that day. He wasn't in a rush, and he wasn't worried at all that his car wouldn't start, or at least he didn't show it. It was just another part of his day. And he reminded me that differences should be celebrated. If this wasn't true, God would have made us all the same.

I'm so glad that I listened to God that day and set aside my to-do list. I ended up accomplishing so much more out on that street that day.

By the way-his name is Don, and I now consider him a new friend.

So what about you? Do you like meeting different people? Do you think it's OK to notice differences among each other?


Debbie said...

Well... I tend to COLLECT "different people". I have no clue as to why, but if you scan a scene and pick out the most "peculiar person", that's the one who will be drawn to me.

And I'm not capable of drawing back from them, either. I feel this compulsion to make them feel comfortable and "at home" around me.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad, to be honest, because some of the folks drawn to me have ended up with a positive relationship while others have not.

I have gotten myself into trouble more than a few times.

I think if I listened to the SPIRIT more and DEBBIE less like you did, I would be used in a better way.

Pondering this.

Laura said...

This is such a sweet story and beautiful picture of your heart. I also read your story on the "about" page and may I say how brave you are? Thank you for sharing your story to help others. You have blessed me tremendously today.

"Ima" said...

Debbie-I'm not surprised, because you seem so sweet and inviting. Plus, you are absolutely so funny, I would want to talk to you.

I always seemed to draw in the different people, even as a young girl in school. I guess I thought they needed a friend, and to be honest, often times I did too. They usually blessed me more than I them.
But, I have also gotten myself into trouble as well. Just situations that were too "big" for me to handle.

Christy said...

Beautiful post and experience. I find people interesting and even in my shyness I strike up conversations with strangers quite frequently. Maybe I'm a little too trusting at times, but if it feels like someone just needs to be noticed or feel like they matter I can't resist talking to them.

"Ima" said...

Thanks for stopping by Laura and for your sweet comment. I am glad my story blessed you today. I wouldn't have signed up for it, but it is the one that God has given me so far, and I pray that I tell it well. He is so faithful. I have enjoyed reading through your blog and look forward to more reading.

"Ima" said...

Oh Christy. I'm so glad to call you my friend and get to see you. You have a sweet heart. I can so see you talking to someone that just needs a friendly hello and needs to know that someone cares. I love you, my friend!

Lisa Maria said...

What a tender heart you have Tami. I find myself crawling back into the old skin of reservedness. I didn't grow up in a family that welcomed others, in fact the opposite. My father was always suspicious of strangers and I was quite an introvert because of how I was raised. I struggle just to smile at others and walk mostly with my head down. Hopefully God, who isn't finished with me yet, will heal me of this and help me to be more loving.. like you ;-)

sarah said...

I liked reading this. It makes me think how there might be a friend behind a stranger's face....we never know.

other nut said...

me again. this reminds me of the book "same kind of different as me" i don't remember if you ever read it. its about a wealthy art dealer white guy and a homeless black guy and how God brings them together to make a difference in dallas and in each other. wonderful book.

Amy Sullivan said...

I love to meet different people to hear their stories and find out what makes them, well, them. When I meet someone I want to know it all!

Lately, I've been too wrapped in me to notice or take time for others and my world has gotten too bland. Good reminder for me to stop and notice.

Jen said...

Hmmm, I think I feel a bit convicted. I'm not sure I would have walked out there, unless there had been some major prompting of the Spirit. Good for you for heeding the call and reaping the rewards.

Kara said...

Hi friend :)
It's been forever since I've made it over to visit...swimming in...well...just life.
But so thankful that God gave me time to visit tonight.
I LOVE this story.
This is how I want to live.
Looking for opportunities.
Seeing people through His eyes.

"Ima" said...

Lisa Maria-thank you for your kind words. I have to say that I'm not always loving :) I wouldn't always choose to stop, but I'm always blessed when I do. My mom's family was like this. Anyone who wanted to come to the lake was instantly treated as family-my grandparent's were pretty amazing people-so thankful for them.

Sarah-thanks for stopping by. That is a great way to put it-a friend behind a stranger's face. Looking forward to reading more of your story on your blog-it is a powerful story that I'm still reading through. Glad you stopped by.

"Ima" said...

Hi Amy. I've noticed that about you by reading your blog, that you love stories and hearing others tell theirs. It is a great experience, just hearing others' stories and finding out where we are different and yet the same at times. Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks Jen-I have to say that I wouldn't always walk out there either, but I'm so glad that I did. I do love meeting people, all kinds of people, but again, I don't always stop what I'm doing-I can be so "to-do list" oriented at times.

"Ima" said...

Glad you could stop by Kara. No need to explain-I totally understand. Life-it gets super busy around here too-especially in the summer. Like now-I'm about to run out to VBS-I'm the nurse for the week. Fun times with these kids.

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