A Shameful Encounter

Today I witnessed something very shameful but very indicative of our society. There was a morbidly obese man in a motorized chair that came into the grocery store I was at. He was probably the largest man I have ever personally seen. Savannah, Emma, and I said hello to him as he passed us and asked him how his day was going. We spoke just a few moments then smiled and went about our way.

Shortly afterward we witnessed a woman who worked at the store belittling him. She questioned him on his cooking habits, even asking if he would even be able to stand to cook. She asked how he would eat cheerios; how could he even reach anything to attempt to cook. She went on and on. Finally she said, “I bet you can’t reach things in the store… you want me to help you shop?” These things were said in a mocking tone and clearly were meant to ridicule his size and disability. There was a couple standing a short distance away, pointing and laughing at the exchange. They didn’t even hide their amusement over the conversation. The man turned down her offer to “help” and moved away from her.

We encountered the worker in the next aisle. She pushed past us with her broom as we shopped. She gave Savannah an ugly look and moved down the aisle. She kept looking back at us with a rude look on her face. Finally I asked her if she had a problem with us. She told me that she didn’t know why we were looking at her “that way”. I replied that we were probably still in shock over how she treated this man and about how rude she had been. We said there was not a single reason to talk to him, or anyone, that way.

She said she had just been joking. I told her that it didn’t matter. It was hurtful and wrong. We walked away. When I got home I contacted the store manager and reported her. The funny thing is that the store manager was able to identify the girl before I had ever given her description. I’m guessing this isn’t the first time someone has called on her.

shameI am livid about this. Seriously, who does this? Are we so self-absorbed that we must belittle and ridicule others to make ourselves feel better? Why can’t we see the humanity in each person we encounter? Why do we have to see weight, skin color, deformities, disabilities, or any other thing that makes a little different?  Why can’t we recognize God’s handiwork in each and every person?

I hope that our interaction with this man will stick with him instead of the interaction with the worker, but my guess is her ugliness to him will stay with him much longer than our brief exchange. That’s how much power our words have- for many, the words that hurt will overshadow the words that encourage, uplift, or show love. It often doesn’t take much for those who already feel like outcasts to be reminded of just how inferior they are in the eyes of many.

I pray that we begin to see one another through Christ’s eyes. When we do, suddenly we see that each and every person has worth and is deserving of our love and respect. Our weight, skin color, social stature, wealth, abilities or disabilities don’t define who we are. We are all God’s children and are beautifully and wonderfully made despite what society may tell us.

My friends, YOU are beautiful, YOU are important, and YOU are worthy of love. I pray no one convinces you otherwise.  

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