Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Person Inside: Part 1- The Big Picture

First of all, no adoption news yet. But thank you for asking!
This post, however, is about something that I struggle with.  You, also, struggle with it.  Yes, you.  I may not know you, and you may not share my beliefs about Jesus.  However, my rather educated guess is that we have this in common.  Let me explain.
A short time ago I was riding public transportation with a friend.  As we sat and waited for the MAX to move, a young man came and sat across the aisle from us.  He was a little more friendly than I would have preferred: “Does this train go to Portland? Do you have change?  How do I get to Portland?  Where did you get your coffee?  Where can I get coffee?  How far away is the coffee shop?  Can I make it back before the train leaves?  Does the train go by the Rose Quarter? Can I borrow your cell phone?...” (Etc. etc.)  All these questions we very kindly addressed in the briefest manner possible.  

At a later stop, a woman got on the max and asked to sit across from him.  My first impression of the woman was someone who had possibly had a hard life.  Tangled gray hair, a lined face, maybe in her 50s, wearing a very low cut top, looking rather eccentric.  (Mid 50s and lots of cleavage is, simply put, not a good combination.)  I smiled to myself to think of the questions she soon would be bombarded with from the young man across from her.

Quite the contrary.  I have rarely heard anyone so kind and compassionate as this woman.  She proceeded to draw out this young man, show genuine concern and give affirmation.  She led him to talk about his family, his life, all the while being interested in who he was.  She was certainly a bit odd, but not at all how her appearances portrayed her.  

My friend and I discussed the scenario later and we were both humbled by the woman who showed a love and interest in a stranger when we weren't willing to.

Here's my point: People aren't always as they seem.  Let me broaden the spectrum.  The girl who had an abortion.  The young man that is constantly drunk.  The hi-school student experimenting with drugs and alcohol.  A single mother.  The boy attempting suicide.  The teen addicted to porn.  The girl with the eating disorder.  The woman with an obsessive desire for cleanliness.  The girl that you can smell from 10 feet away.  The cross-dresser.

Most of these examples are, for the majority of us, easy to judge as being “wrong”, “foolish” or “strange” in some way, and our natural reaction is to be a bit aloof and aghast at these people or their lifestyles.


What if we knew that the girl was raped at 13 and had an abortion out of sheer terror, shame and helplessness?  If we knew that the young man lost his mother and didn't know how else to grieve?  The student with a horrible home life and no good role models to turn to?  The responsible, faithful mother whose husband divorced her?  The boy whose father never had a kind word for him?  The teen stuck in his addiction and too ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help?  The girl who used diet and exercise to an extreme because it was the only way she felt self-worth?  The lady whose husband died and her home was the only part of her life she felt she could control?  The girl's family had no running water in their home because of their poverty.  The boy who has no solid father-figure to show him how to be a man.

Does our perspective change?  Do we suddenly have a heart of compassion for knowing a bit more of someone's story?  I would hope so.  It is so easy for us to make (and act on) assumptions about people and be clueless to the facts.  We become focused on the outward trappings, the initial impression, the stereotypes.  

Underneath, people are just...  people.  They have emotions, hurts, joys, compassion, and life experiences that make some of us cringe.  They need love, a listening ear, affirmation about their value, and sometimes a good kick-in-the-pants because they are making a stupid decision...  but only after being loved, listened to, and affirmed.

My challenge to me (and to you) is this.  Next time you see someone different than you, whether they fit any of the above categories, are tattooed, goth, poor, homeless, whatever it might be that makes you feel “above” them in any way, ask for God's strength to look past all of that.  Look past the assault to your senses and realize that there is a person inside of them, who may, in fact, have much to offer even someone like you.  People make stupid decisions.  I have, and so have you, and so have the people around you. Do not be hasty to label someone and put them in a box, because you have no clue who the person is inside their skin.  


  1. Thank you for this very timely reminder Anna. I am ashamed that I have done this myself and very recently.

  2. Thank you for your words of truth! Such a good encouragement!