Two Sundays ago a guy started attending the career-age singles group I am in at my church. He is, to say it as nicely as possible, a pretty goofy looking guy... big, round, short thinning hair, and funny lips that don't quite close all the way, leaving his two front teeth constantly exposed as if he were trying to make a silly face. His physical features were touched off by unstylish and mismatched clothes, a tie that didn't make it all the way down to his belt, and a considerable degree of shyness. I discovered, in attempting to make small talk, that he had graduated from college four years ago but worked in a warehouse now, and just started coming to my church because there was no one his age at his old church. He said he really en-joyed the career singles group so far. Even before this little conversation, I had dismissed him as just another sorry misfit that I really wasn't interested in relating with.
Then, last Sunday, on the way out of church, I saw him sitting in his plain, grey, Ford Escort, warming it up. The cold of the winter Michigan morning was still pre-sent, and he was blowing into his hands and rubbing them together for heat. And as he did this, I caught a glimpse of a big smile.
Something hit me... this goofy guy, smiling to himself in his car. I smiled to my-self and kind of chuckled as I reached my car. And then, I almost started crying. Why is he smiling? What does he have to be happy about? I realized what it meant to him to come to a group and be accepted by people, or at least some of them... I felt the guilt well up inside me, knowing I had dismissed him, this fellow human being and brother in Christ, as a loser that I was going to ignore. I praised God for my friends in the group that were not as crass as I was, and that took the time to talk to him and welcome him. And I cursed myself for taking my acceptance among these friends for granted, especially because, if they knew who I really was, I might not have it. My pride, based on a lie, was pierced for a moment by a small gleam of his honest happiness -- something I have not felt for myself in a long, long, time.
At least, now, I will look at him and see a person.