Of Barbeque Ribs, Strangers and the Human Tribe
On my way into the hospital where the surgeon's office is located, a very large man was sitting on a bench by the door. He was yelling greetings to everyone. People ignored him and went on their way.
As I was waiting for the elevator, he came in the lobby. He yelled at no one in particular, "I can't wait til they take those ribs outta my freezer on Sunday!" I smiled at him as the three other folks there looked at their feet ("Don't make eye contact. Don't make eye contact!")
He looked at me and said, "You eat ribs??" Yes, I replied.
"Well, I got 18 lbs of ribs in my freezer. We gonna cook 'em up Sunday!"
"That sounds like a feast! I hope you enjoy!"
And then I got on the elevator. One lady on board mumbled something about he must be "crazy." I thought he was just really happy about 18 lbs. of ribs. Who wouldn't be?? I mean, the only thing better would be bacon.
This past Sunday, Dear Husband and Dark-Haired Daughter were running errands. Their last stop was the nearby pharmacy - a large chain. Daughter had to use the ladies' room. As she walked in, there was a woman chopping off huge chunks of her hair, with a box of hair color on the sink. The woman turned to my daughter, hand up in the universal sign for "stop" and terrified, yelled out, "No!! You have to get out!! You can't come in! Just stop!! Get out!!"
My daughter wisely heeded. Understandably shaken, Daughter got Dad. Dad got a store manager and then .... we're not sure what happened after that. Some scenarios come to mind as to why a woman would do this, and none are good, so we decided to pray for the woman.
As I told this story to my co-workers over lunch on Monday, one remarked, "That is so bizarre!! It's crazy - I mean, who sees something like this??" And I replied, "Us. For the Hiltons, this is called Sunday night."
It's rather amazing, but the barbeque ribs guy and the hair-chopping lady are just rather normal for us. (Me especially. Really. My spiritual advisor says I have a neon sign on my head that such folks can see.) When everyone else is moving away and looking at their feet, we are engaging in conversation. I've had conversations about barbeque, aliens (this one was notable as it took place in the National Basilica in Washington DC), depression, how horrible meds are, not wanting coffee (I'd offered a really mad guy who wanted money some coffee - he wasn't happy), and the general state of the world, including transportation, roundabouts and bikes.
Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. - Heb. 13:2
No, I don't see every one of these folks as angels (but they could be! I'm rather dense!), but I know they are Christ. Sometimes they are Christ who loves barbeque and sometimes they are Christ trying to hustle a few bucks. Christ in his most distressing disguise, St. Teresa of Kolkata said, and she knew a bit about those distressing disguises.
Our natural tendency towards these folks is to move away. We think (maybe not consciously, but it's there): Danger. Just Step Away. And yeah, some of these folks are belligerent and rude. They smell bad. They are mentally ill and they have taken the Crazy Train right on outta town.
But they are still Us. Our Tribe. Human. They get hungry and lonesome. They hurt, physically, emotionally. They are lost. Or maybe found. Maybe they don't want anything this world has to offer and they are trying to check out as much as they can.
But they are still Christ.
So if you see a middle-aged redhead woman nodding thoughtfully as a 300 lb. black man yells at her about barbeque ribs, just throw her a little wave. And say a Hail Mary for us. Because it's Us. We Are A Tribe.
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