September 5, 2011

Another Point of View

I have always enjoyed having a manicure or pedicure.  Because it is expensive, I don't treat myself frequently but I will sometimes use my birthday gift money for this purpose.  A few years ago, before we left on vacation, I wandered into a salon I had not used before and asked for a pedicure.  I had become accustomed to the pleasant and friendly service of the place I have gone before.  I was quite taken back by the rude manicurist and a less than nice job.  I gave her the benefit of the doubt, though, because everyone has a bad day once in a while.

Now, lest you think I am a grumpy person and hard to please, that is really not the case.  In fact, I challenge myself to take the grumpy waitress or store clerk and have that person smiling before my business with them is done.  This drives my family crazy, because it often means a five minute trip to Walmart will take 30, as I chit chat with the person running the register or a customer I met in the toilet paper aisle.  But I always leave feeling better myself if I have done something to bring a smile to someone else.

No, this unpleasant woman, who mistakenly works in the service industry, was simply immovable in her bad attitude and bad mood.

The next time I had a little spending money for a pedicure, I returned to the same salon.  As luck would have it, I was assigned to the same lady.  And as it turns out, she was less than friendly and I was less than pleased with the job she did.

So much so, that in three years, I have not returned to her shop.  I do business at a dry cleaners, a restaurant and a grocery store in that same shopping center, so I am often walking passed her place of business.  Each time, I always think of this rude lady and how I will not give that place any more of my money for such an inferior job and poor customer skills.  In fact, last week, my girlfriends and I were getting together to celebrate a birthday with dinner and pedicures.  When Julie asked me where we should go I told her not to that shop because I didn't think they did a good job.

This Tuesday, Samuel and Winnie had to go to the doctors office to get shots.  Sammy was so brave.  Two big old needles and he didn't make one peep.  I know it must have hurt like crazy, though.  For one thing, he has no fat on his arms at all to buffer the pain.  For another thing, his eyes got enormous when the second needle went in.  I was so proud of him, I asked if he wanted to go out for a lunch date with me.

So we did.  Samuel is not like most six year old boys.  He didn't ask to go to McDonald's or Pizza Hut.  He wanted to go out for Pho.  Which works for me.

The Vietnamese restaurant happens to be next door to the nail salon with the grumpy lady.  The weather was just beautiful, so we chose a table on the sidewalk and sat down to enjoy our meal together.  After some delicious food and fun conversation with Sam and the waitress we've come to know, who should come and sit at the table beside us?

Yes, the manicurist I was telling you about.  All by herself, she came and set her Tupperware lunch and a white envelope on the table, had a seat and started eating.  Shortly after that, Samuel got up to wander inside for a leftover box and the manicurist commented on how adorable he is.  Which, of course, he is.  Then she asked if Carmella was a girl of a boy.  (The hair bow, and flowered outfit she was wearing wasn't enough of a give away.)  Then in her broken English she told me how lucky I was to have one of each.  (Please don't get me started on that!)

Then she went on to say, I have a daughter.  Trying to make conversation, I asked her how old her daughter was.  "17."  She said this was her senior year.  I asked what school she went to, but I could not understand her answer and didn't want to ask her again and risk insulting her.  (Does that ever happen to you?)

That's when Samuel came back with his box and I turned my attention back to him.  As we were figuring the tip to leave, the manicure lady started talking to me again.  "Do you want to see a picture?" she asked as she pushed the white envelope across the table towards where I was sitting.

"Sure, I would love to," I told her as I picked up the envelope and looked inside.  There were three pictures of a stunning young lady with long black hair.  As I looked at this women, worn from life's experiences, I could see the resemblance.  I could also see the pride in her eyes as I told her how lovely her daughter was.  I asked what her daughter would do after graduation and she shared with me plans for college and career.

Despite asking her twice,though, I am sorry to say, I could not make out what the proud mama was trying to communicate.  Don't ask me why it caught my attention at that exact moment but this thought crossed my mind. As this lady stepped outside to eat lunch, she brought just two things with her, the meal and pictures of her daughter.  It isn't like she had her purse stuffed with all her junk, like the one on the chair beside me,  from where she pulled out a bunch of envelopes, papers and shopping list to hunt down the photo of her girl.  She purposed to extract it from where ever it was and carry it to this sidewalk table for the few short minutes she would be sitting there eating her lunch.

Was it that she so loved her daughter that she doesn't even step outside the door without bringing her photograph or is it that she is so lonely she needs to hang on to those snapshots?

I know I don't like to go anywhere without my kids.  I just love being with them and having them along with me for as long as we journey together on this earth.  And when they aren't with me, I like to keep a photo in my purse, or in my Bible or somewhere close by my side.  But as I looked at this lady and the envelope I had placed back on the table, I couldn't help but think the sadness in her eyes was best translated to a longing for lost hopes and dreams rather than the latter.    

I was soon to find out the truth.  Not knowing what to say next, since I couldn't make out the college or major her daughter was embarking on, I asked if she wanted to see the pictures of my children.  Which caused her to eagerly shake her head.

I no longer carry wallet sized portraits of our family.  They are too ridiculously small for our gang.  The last few years the girls have put together small photo albums on Kodak or Shutterfly or one of those similar online stores.  This is how I share photos of my gang when I run into old friends or curious strangers.  So I pulled out my little album and handed it over.

She immediately was taken by the layout and design of the book.  She was awed that Brianna could do so much and commented on how beautiful the pictures are.  (Thank you Susan.)

Then she started counting kids.  "Eight?"  "Yes, that is right, eight."  "Five girls and three boys?"  "Yes."  "Wow!"  she said.

"You married?" she asked.  "Yes," I told her.  Then she asked which one was my husband.  (Did you get that Allen, she couldn't tell you apart from the kids.)  I pointed him out and next, she said, "You are lucky."

And she meant it.  I could see her comparing her lot in life with my many blessings.  Not in an angry or bitter way but just as a matter of fact.  From the depths of her heart, I could feel her obvious pain in a less than happy history with her daughter's father.  I replied with the only words that I could get out of my throat at that moment.  "Yes, he is a very good man."

She asked how old I was.  After taking a minute to calculate my age,  I do try not to think about that too much, I answered her.  She said, "Same as me."  I said, "Is that so?"  And then told her that it wasn't too late for her to have that son.  She replied that, for her those things are passed.

I stared into her face as long as I could without seeming impolite and saw something different than just a rude manicurist who couldn't do a very good job.  I was seeing this woman through an entirely different point of view.  She was a woman who wasn't familiar with love or happiness.  As young as she was, life was over for her.  Now she was just biding her time until she draws her final breath. Worse than someone without a happy past or a happy today... she was a woman with no hope for a happy future.

My heart ached as I realized how close I had been to such a fate.  Indeed, how close we all are to such a fate.  It has been 17 years since I was saved and gave my life over to Jesus.  I understand more today about the eventual eternity in hell and the horrible fate that awaits those who haven't been born again, than I ever did before.  And because of that I share my faith every chance I get.  This brings me so much joy in itself.  But mostly I share because the picture of the torment that the lost will face one day haunts me and grips my heart with a physical pain I can not describe.

But this woman reminded me of another reason to share my faith.  Without Jesus there is no hope for the sad, weary and down trodden. Without Jesus, everything looks dark and pointless.  Without Jesus I would have been manicure lady.  Without peace.  Without joy.  Without forgiveness.  Without my amazing husband.  Without  my beautiful children.  Without the hope of knowing there is an even more beautiful future awaiting me at the end of this life.

Even after leaving some Bible literature and information about a Bible study, I found it so hard to walk away and leave this woman so downtrodden and so hopeless.  Her face has flashed into my mind more times than I can count in the last few days.  And, although, I know her best hope for a better tomorrow are my prayers on her behalf, that still seems so inadequate.  Perhaps, I will return to her salon some day after all.

But in the meantime, I will walk away from our brief encounter with a greater conviction to always look for another point of view.


  1. Being in the music business and running his own trucking company, my husband runs into all sorts of ppl. often times 1st impressions leave a lasting impression, but we've learned that there's more than meets the eye with most individuals.
    one incident in particular comes to mind. this individual was most impressed by the fact that my husband had FOUR kids... with the same WOMAN! Not to mention my hubby was married to this woman for 9 consecutive years.
    We don't know her 'story', yet we can only imagine the sadness it entails.

  2. This is such a great reminder and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.