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An Honest Encounter
Meeting the Stranger
Let's crack the surface and go deep
“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them.”- Barbara Brown Taylor
I was minding my own business today as usually am (most of the time anyway, I have a creative knack for being in the oddest situations) so I get my money together and I overhear a conversation. “Honey, I done told you, I’m leaving. OK! I am not going to jail, but will have to catch me first honey.” So that caught my ears and eyes at the same time. I look up just in time to look in the face of a female cop not too much smaller than myself, a man with an afro with red hair dye at the tip of a side Mohawk. He was medium build and about a solid c cup, I was bite surprised because it wasn’t muscle and he didn’t appear to be uncomfortable, one bit. I see the cop walk away, as I look to her left I see three police cars parked across the street with 3 male cops. It hadn’t clicked in my mind that they were all there for him as I was pulling in, since I was jamming to my S.W.V. CD. (Honestly, I was annoyed at the cops blocking traffic as I pulled into the station.)
The police lady is walking over to her police van and he yells, “I done told you honey. I’m gonna run hard honey!” Then, he says to one of the two security guards, who asked what he had in his bag, “Honey, that a can opener.” When, I heard can opener, before I could think I was giving him my chips. (No Brittany, it’s your favorite!) The words were effortless, “You hungry, you want my chips?” He said, “YES, HONEY, YES!” So I walk in pay for my gas pretend not to notice the advances of the security guard in the story. I ask if he was in line, he says, “I’m right here been waiting on you.” (Pump your break security, I’m just trying to get gas and get the heck out of dodge. The female cop looks like she did track and that man was not going to jail or so he claimed, I believed he meant. Nope, no cross fires for me, I’ll pass.)
When I come back he is talking to the lady in the car across from me, he says, “No honey, I can’t go to jail. Look at me I’m just what they looking for in jail. No, honey, I am not going there. I’m a run first.” Then, he walked away, just like that. I thought to myself, was all of that necessary for one man. 4 cops, 2 security guards were already there, was he superman or something. Also, the three male cops are parked across the street having a discussion, and the female cop is the one doing the interaction. (This is nothing against women police, I believe in equality for all.) I thought was this man able to multiply into a group, with all the questions he was asked, no one asked what he needed or wanted. (I included).
I thought and reflected as I drove home. I see a cross-dressing man and his companion. I thought of how hard two men’s lives must be. I felt humbled, fortunate, and sad, I was flooded with emotions. When I finally got home and was closing my car door, at out nowhere a thought came to me, he had my chips! (I know right, you thought it was an epiphany or something. It wasn’t.) My humanity crept in and proclaimed my own selfishness. Had I sacrificed? Some say yes, some say no, I say it was a sacrifice until I remembered I had my turtles, then the steam melted and the compassion came back. I thought what was I supposed to take from this experience?
The first man didn’t want to be jail bate any more than I did? That cross-dresser is affectionate in the dead of Atlanta heat? That sacrifices no matter how big or how small is still sacrifice and brings you one step closer to being less selfish? Is it the awareness of the degree of my selfishness? (Some time the broad stroke has to be painted huge for me at times.) What I think I experienced this gas station encounter to say that people come in all shapes, colors, genders, and life styles, but as humans the need is the same. We need to be seen in our sorrows. We need to be heard in our silent cries. We need someone to sit with us and be silent when we can’t hold it together. WE NEED……
We need each other, because sometimes we can’t tell our own stories, but we can encounter those people who can tell them for us. All I can say is for a brief moment I encountered a man I have never met before. I saw a little of myself in him, because although he was in a serious ordeal with the police, he still had his sense of humor. It came out in his demeanor and language to the cop, security guard, and the lady in the car, as well as my encounter. I reach for humor in times that I find myself in uncomfortable situations, it may go to thing. It reminds me of one of my favorite Professors, the late Dr. Edward Smith, a mystic Christian, who had a great impact on my life, and introduced me to one of my favorite authors, Howard Thurman.
Thurman says, “The individual enters the experience and/or the preparation for it with the smell of life heavy upon him. He has in him all his errors and blindness, his raw conscience and his scar tissues, all his loves and hates. In fact, all that he is as he lives life is with him in this experience. It is in his religious experience that he sees himself from another point of view. In a very real sense he is stripped of everything and he stands with no possible protection from the countenance of the Other. Things of which he is stripped are not thrown away. They are merely laid aside and with infinite patience they are seen for what they are. It is here that the great decision is made as to what will be kept and what will be discarded. A man may take a whole lifetime to put away a particular garment forever.” I had to end it on Thurman, I apologize, but the man was deep. I will attach some must reads books that have helped me understand encounters and being of aid and not offense.
Rest in Peace Dr. Edward Smith- Professor of Theology.