I spent part of yesterday afternoon at the home of an acquaintance. A widower. A man probably close to twice my age.
I've known him for a few years. He's always been kind. He's known for generosity. Though there were a few times in our history of occasional overlaps when he made statements, seeming to be "knowing and perceiving" into my life, through the implied passing statements of yet more acquaintances--and those statements made me uncomfortable. They made me feel just a little bit unfairly judged. I set a boundary, then, between myself and him. I had to protect my heart, and so I decided he was "one of those." One I could not let myself get close to because of the danger of judgment. I assumed I knew all about what he thought, how he viewed the world, the culture, life in it, based on a few out of context statements.
I still kept contact. A card or note here or there. Months apart. Always polite. Never too very personal. "Hope you are well. Have a nice [holiday, birthday, whatever]." Guarded.
Because I thought I knew him.
A few contacts, a few incomplete statements in the mix, and I thought I had full knowledge.
But yesterday, he showed me so much more. He had called to ask me for something directly. Something it was not too difficult for me to provide for him, and in the spirit of detached service, I chose to act right away and provide what he had asked for. (Even if I felt fearful and untrusting of him, I still would not want to cause him pain. And my own soul knows in too raw communion the hurt of a recent such transaction between myself and another--when I ventured to ask for one small thing I needed, which would cost nothing more than breath or keystrokes, and had my request slammed back at me with only nothingness; I would not choose to pass on such a sting to another if I could help it with such little effort as this.)
And so I arrived at his home to fulfill the request and he asked me in. We sat at his table by the window for a while, making small talk. And then he surprised me with a story from his life, right now. I never would have guessed what he was going to tell me. I never would have guessed how he saw the world, and friendships in it, and human need, and broken hearts, and a desire to help, and, maybe most of all, a desire to be loved, wanted, sought out.
He was just like me. Just. Like. Me.
And then he listened. He let me tell a short, brief, encapsulated version of one of my own stories, which told him I understood.
We held hands. We cried. We prayed together.
I see a little of his heart now. He understood a lot of mine. I was wrong in my assumptions. It was fear that made me leap. I am so afraid of judgment, in the community that is supposed to be the most loving. I am so afraid of the prejudices developed from the snippets of my life story that have been shared, without the sharers getting the whole picture, asking for the details--so afraid of prejudices I made my own. I built up such a wall of fear that I assumed he was just like my images of others. But I was wrong.
He is just like me.
I'll be going back.
"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." -- John 7:24