When Anne Lamott talks about writing, she says that every single thing that happens to us is ours to tell with words. And she says that if people don’t like the way they are portrayed in our stories, maybe they should have been nicer. In this story, I’m the one who needed to act nicer.
I want to share this hard story of ignorance and insecurity that happened in a little bar when I was in college. I play the lowest low here.
My friends and I were dancing in this bar when a guy came up to me and started hitting on me. The guy was probably very nice and saying all kinds of nice things, but I didn’t notice any of that, because this guy was missing an arm. And its all I could focus on.
If I’m being honest, his missing arm scared me. Like who does this one armed-guy think he is hitting on me? I immediately thought his physicality was connected to his intellectuality. And I was young and immature. So I shut him down hard and fast and walked away laughing with my friends.
Laughing with my friends. Because in my mind, this guy probably did something stupid to lose his arm, right? Or, he was born like that, which makes him awkward, strange and unknown. Something that was different and something I didn’t have interest in.
Later in the night, a guy friend who we were with struck up a conversation with the same guy, and found out he was wounded while serving in the army in the middle east.
Palm to face, guys. Repeat.
I not only rejected, but honestly mocked and laughed at, a soldier who lost a limb while fighting to protect our freedom overseas. What a stinking, sucking, low life I was in that moment. Like I wanted to crawl into my skin and disappear.
Its been close to 10 years, and I think about that solider all the time, because I still feel bad about it today. I was ignorant about him. I didn’t even take a chance to understand him because of MY insecurities.
Here’s what I fully and whole heartily believe: every problem, every issue, every injustice we face goes back to ignorance.
Ignorance breeds insecurity. Insecurity breeds fear. Fear breeds action.
And the action, is what we’re seeing all over the world. The terrorist attacks in London, the bombings in Manchester, the travel ban in the USA, even LeBron’s home being vandalized in LA – we are ignorant.
A little piece of us panics every time we see someone different then we are, right? It’s that unknown factor that scares us and taps into our pre-meditated insecurities. And our fear makes us act. Instead of celebrating and honoring our wonderful uniqueness, we fear it. And its a shame too, because we can learn so much from those who are different than us.
Overcoming It starts with humility. And its something I still struggle with. I think thats ok, as long as I’m trying to get better each day. When I find myself in an awkward place, I try to recite this verse in my head. Which mainly ends up with me gritting my teeth and hoarsely to myself: “ANGELS. PEOPLE ARE ANGELS. THIS PERSON COULD BE ONE . BE NICE. BE HUMBLE. EVEN IF ITS KILLING YOU. ” Most of the time its killing me.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2
Just today, a woman at a busy gas station pulled up behind me getting ready to pump gas and screamed out her window for me to “PULL UP TO THE OTHER ONE SO I CAN GET IN HERE.” And I wanted to yell back. Because I had already popped the gas tank, turned off the car and successfully got out of the car all without waking the sleeping baby in the backseat – which parents know, is quite the feat in itself. And why couldn’t she just go around me to get to the other pump? I turned around to this screaming woman and saw a handicap sticker in the window of her beat up van, which may or may not have been counterfeit and my blood started to boil. I was doing it again. And as I got back in my car to restart it and give up my gas station spot I’m gritting through my teeth “ANGELS. THIS GOOD-FOR-NOTHING RUDE WOMAN, SHES AN ANGEL.”