Note from a recent trip …

Hannah shares a beautiful story … after the jump.

I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with the way you handled the man, [Joe], at our [event] who stood up and talked about how we need to put your ideas into action. I felt uncomfortable as he was speaking, like he was going on too long and not making good points. He even told you that we all knew what you were saying already. You were totally unthreatened by him and you actually had all of us applaud when he was finished. I was so surprised by that response from you. You didn’t shut him down or belittle him in any way. In fact you did the opposite. You thanked him for his comments and even went back to them later when you were answering another question. I loved all your stories and listened intently to what you said in your lectures, and the way you handled [Joe]’s comments was the thing that really stuck with me.
I realize that all of this is probably about me and my own issues and where I’m at.
Last night I attended the Zydeco Mass at the Cathedral, which is a riotous Eucharist with a zydeco band playing. It draws our most colorful members out of the woodwork. Afterward, I attended the Cajun dinner and was seated next to two men who at first made me uncomfortable because they were a little bizarre. One man kept referring to women in his life as “prostitutes,” the Latinos in his life as “Mexicans,” and he even knew some “lesbians.” He referred to others who were “living in sin,” etc, etc. The other man was a professed alcoholic who was drinking wine. So at first I was uncomfortable. Then I thought about how you were so unthreatened by [Joe] and you actually welcomed him. I tried it out. I just listened, because they both seemed to want to talk. As I listened I felt my usual misgivings about these men and I almost said to the one man, “if you’re in AA and you understand your alcoholism, then why are you drinking tonight?” But I decided to just listen because that was clearly what they needed. They both had been through a lot of hardship. They both had sparks of divinity shining through all their weirdness. A couple times friends attempted to rescue me from their conversation but I stuck with it. And it turned out that we were the last people to leave the hall. The alcoholic paid me a compliment saying, “thank you for being who you are. Just your presence is wonderful,” which is about the best compliment I’ve ever received. I felt totally safe and unthreatened. It was such a neat experience. Thank you for inspiring me to accept people on their own terms. It ended up being really good for me!
I feel like it’s the start of an interesting journey in my life.

I’ve experienced this again and again in my life too – when I’m tempted to pull away, but I remember that a follower of Jesus always “moves toward the other” with nonjudging love and respect and a willingness to listen … and, as Hannah says, a desire to see the image of God in people who at first seem to us unlikely.