These thoughts have been twirling around in my head, trying to find solid resting places. I'm hoping that writing them will help the sorting.
So many houses grace my days - flitting pictures sometimes noticed, sometimes ignored. The once-exquisite houses in town - history and architecture ignored, turned into run-down apartment complexes. The contented white farmhouse - more grey than white because of peeling paint. The cheery yellow Cape Cod with little patches of annuals dotting the yard. The comforatable Raised Ranch with toys scattered and a stroller parked outside. The huge house across the field from us. A mystery in its massiveness. Deeply in need of repair, but strong and cozy and inviting.
I know that some share my strange love for driving past warm-lit windows at night. What families, lives, stories are in the light behind those half-closed curtains?
It is easy to make assumptions. Labels. Categories. This kind of person lives in That kind of house and That type of person live in This sort of house. Maybe there is some truth to those categories. Its so easy to judge a book by its cover, a family by its dwelling place. Do I do the same thing with people?
It has been rumbling around, troubling me. We not only categorize, but we place value to those categories. Of course, you realize that I'm not talking about the value of Real Estate. But doesn't the pristine Queen Anne seem to hold more value to us - societally - than the run-down trailer with toys in the yard?
My own home is beautiful and cozy inside. It is designed for our needs - who we are as a family. It has our signature all over it - in the colors, the books, the lived-in-ness. But the outside has some issues. Even my oh-so-cool red barn star doesn't distract from the siding-bare spots left from last summer's remodel. And try as we might to disguise it, our small storage area is open for the world to see. And I know how easy it would be do drive by and notice the bare siding and the toy storage, rather than the hundreds of new flowers that are blooming or the cool red barn star.
I know because I'm afraid I do it too.....To people.
How easy is it to think we understand a person based on what we see? We see their designer clothing and manicured nails. Or their slim physique and new running shoes. Or their perfect hair and magazine-ready children. Or their extra pounds and loose-fitting shirt. Or their starchy suit and shined shoes. And - plop - into a category they go. Know it or not, we stamp them with a general range of value. Like when you shop online for real estate, you have to click on a price range. And you get what you pay for.
I'm terribly afraid we don't only do this to the people we pass in the grocery store. We do it to each other.
Just as I want someone to look past the flaws of my house, to enjoy the flowers and come inside and see what we're about and why our priorities are as they are. I also want others to look past the 3-baby-poundage still hanging on for dear life. And the non-designer clothes. And the 4-foot-ten-ishness that lingers about me. And I want them to know me for me. How many times in my life have I been labeled from a distance? Enough to realize that it isn't fair.
God values the prostitute on the corner exactly the same as me. And he values my wealthy, picture-perfect friends the same, too. He sees past all that. And He doesn't categorize us.
I had a college professor once that taught me about giving people "wobble room." It is so easy to lash out at the one who is often harsh, or who runs their mouth too much, or who seems reclusive or even proud. But what a gift it is to learn to give them the grace, the wobbling-space, that I wish to be given. To understand that I don't understand everything about them. And that I have not walked in their shoes. And there are reasons people get into the habits they're in.
As I said, these thoughts - although not a new concept - are arresting me in a new way lately. Because: I want to begin the slow process of de-valuing facades. And knowing people. For who they are. For how they hurt. For where they've been. For those beautiful laughing and crying and understanding and creating corners within them that they don't let people see. (The image of God within all of us.)The same way I want people to know me.