Tonight at Mass the Priest made a reference to sewing. He needed to sew a button on a shirt, and the ability to thread the eye of the needle to be frustratingly hard. He managed to, and secured the button on his shirt. He related this experience to the Readings of the day, speaking of commitment to prayer, confession, and how consistent practice of these will allow us to grow closer to the Lord. He talked about sewing, I was surprised, and tuned in enough to hear how what he was preaching on led to what I’ve been thinking about for days.
Recently I found myself thinking not so kind things. This happens way more than I’d care to admit. So I’m not really admitting it but I kind of am. I think unkind things about me, about the gal walking down the street, about my sweetie, about another quilter. Shocking I know, but I do it. Please don’t tell anyone because I’m kind of embarrassed.
Working in a retail business the daily interactions with a wide variety of people provides a wide variety of experiences that can leave a person elated, disheartened, or down right ticked off. Retail is hard work. Leaving for home at the end of the day there are a lot of people to see on the way to the bus, so seeing people and having thoughts about them is nothing unusual often I pray for the folks from the drug rehab next door, and think “I see you! I see YOU!”
Okay so let me back up a bit. I work for a magazine where we look for and report on trends. While it’s not a fashion magazine, we see color and texture are everywhere influences. For a long time the quilting world has been behind the fashion world when it comes to color. The on-trend colors appearing in our shops several years after they hit the runways. From what I’ve learned at our trade show we’re catching up with the current color trends, being less than a year now. This has much to do, I believe, with technology, and the ability to adapt quickly
After a 1 1/2 to 2 hour ride on the bus I’m ready to take in the sights, taking note of what people are wearing colors, textures, shapes, lengths, what have you. This is the City, at once we are on trend and doing whatever the heck we want. What’s really fascinating to me is the eclectic nature of all of this. I find colors, fiber, and texture I’d want to work with, and uh, not so much. That has much to do with my personal likes, and dislikes, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of it.
So back to my walk back to the bus, this internal conversation with myself there were a couple of things happening: I found myself (and this is the main reason for this post) judging a woman because of what she was wearing. This startled, no, rattled me. First of all she is rather beautiful, the color she was wearing looked amazing on her. And here’s the kicker and where I caught myself judging her because she was wearing a form fitting short dress.
I know nothing about her, so for me to think “well, if she would dress a little more modestly…” see where I’m going here? How she dresses is none of my business, really! I have stuck in my head that women should dress modestly. I know where it comes from, and I get why. I get the deeper why, probably. Maybe.
But then I got to thinking that it’s not her, nor is it my, responsibility to control the thoughts of others. Modest dress does not prevent anyone from thinking rude or lewd thoughts, or acting badly, violently toward a woman, or a child, or a guy. Modest dress doesn’t change the heart or mind of another person. While I’d like to think it does, in reality it doesn’t. A woman can be judged, viewed in a sexually inappropriate manner, raped, all while dressed modestly.
Wanna know how I know this can happen? I’m a 5′ tall, buxom woman, my shape is proportional. After a long time, and a lot of angst I’ve come to accept this as my size and shape. As a general rule I wear skorts to work, just above the knee, with a knit shirt, or polo style shirt. I’m not immodest, I don’t think I am anyway. Walking to work I’ve heard men say inappropriate things to me, or to their buddies, and laugh, thinking somehow this is okay. Guys will be guys, yanno. Very inappropriate, so much so that I’ve wanted to turn around, smack them upside the head, and ask them, “would you want someone saying this to YOUR daughter?” I’ve ignored it and walked on. I’m no longer sure this is the best answer, however it’s the answer I have right now.
I thought about and worked toward examining my own thoughts, and what was behind them. Why did I find it necessary to judge her? And all I can think is Be Kind. Be Kind to her. Be Kind to the people on the street by not judging them for what they’re wearing, how they smell (I struggle with perfume greatly – waves of nausea don’t help). Be Kind to myself with reminders that people are just as screwed up as I am. Wait. People are human. People have feelings, and thoughts, and desires, and goals, and pains. and things that make them, well, them.
When I’ve found myself beyond frustrated lately (a store closing in so many weeks with everything that goes along with it has frayed nerves) I have tried to turn to prayer. And food, because sometimes I’m just hungry. But prayer. Prayer for the customer in front of me who is driving me up a tree. Prayer because I don’t know what’s driving it. Praying because I don’t know how my words will effect them. Prayer because I can’t control how someone responds to me. Prayer because I need help responding kindly to this person. Like this woman, walking down the street, and my thoughts about her dress.
And so I hope to become much more mindful of my thoughts towards others. I hope to be kinder towards them, and towards myself. I hope to see the personhood of the other regardless of what they are wearing, their addiction, mental illness, brokenness. Because God created each one. And they do not need me thinking ill of them, for any reason.