Years ago I attended a Fourth of July party at the US ambassador’s residence in Paris. Before you start making assumptions, let me clarify that I did not warrant an invitation to this shindig; I was a tagalong guest of someone who did.
So there I was in the midst of diplomats, political and economic movers and shakers, and of course a sprinkling of celebrities. Before long I started playing a game. First, I would guess how long it would take someone who struck up a conversation to realize that I was not in any of the above categories and start looking over my shoulder scanning the crowd for someone who was. Second, I would guess what excuse the person would offer to leave me as quickly as possible to go talk to someone who mattered.
I was not offended but instead rather curious. How did we become a society with such a narrow definition of success, such a limited range of people worth knowing?
When I think of random people I have enjoyed encountering in my life, I realize that most of them would have been summarily dismissed by the attendees at the Fourth of July celebration. Just recently, for example, some workers were at my house to install a gas line from the street to the meter. While the street was dug up, I wandered out to take a look. I asked a couple of questions, and before long, we were engaged in a lively conversation as they educated me about what lies under the street, what they were doing, and how everything was going to work when they were done. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and I think they appreciated sharing some of their expertise with a clueless customer.
I can think of other conversations where I learned something interesting, something that I would not have discovered if I had not taken the time to be curious. Or perhaps I found common ground with someone who, at first glance, seemed so different from me. We just never know. And we never will if we don’t pause with a willingness to put our assumptions aside and listen.
However, I’m the first to admit that I have also overlooked people. Once while out walking, I overheard a woman speaking about an apparently homeless man pushing a rickety shopping cart down the street. Racing back towards her house, she exclaimed, “Oh I have to go make that man a sandwich. He might be Jesus!” What? I turned to look at the man I had not even noticed, to really look at him, and I’ll be darned if he didn’t have some sort of a glow about him. Not necessarily because he was Jesus, but because he was alive.
We are all holy vessels of creation, fearfully and wonderfully made, filled with the sacred essence of existence. We are, each and every one of us, worthy to be known, because we are known, and loved, by no less than Life itself.
Namaste – the divine in me bows to the divine in you