Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two Curious Comments

Last week as I stood in line at the Post Office the lady behind me asked me to examine a document that she had received in the mail. She was planning to ask the Post Office clerk, but asked me. It was a winnings claim form. She was skeptical of its legitimacy, and rightly so. The language of the document was that which is common to scams. I pointed to various terms and especially to the fact that she was being asked to send a $10.00 money order in order to receive her winnings. After all, if she has won $10,000.00 or $20,000.00, why would the award require a payment? The demand for a money order rather than a check is also a red flag. We talked some more as we left the Post Office, and examining the envelope I commented that it was from the Netherlands, a foreign country where the Post Master General and the US Post Office would have no power to investigate or prosecute mail fraud.

As we exited the Post Office, the lady made a curious comment. She said something that I was not at all expecting. She said, “You probably never thought that a black lady would be asking you this today.” As our conversation continued I did not remark on her comment, but it did strike me as peculiar. In ordinary circumstances I don’t see a person’s color. Certain mannerisms can bring to my attention a person’s ethnicity. Hearing an unfamiliar name will activate my curiosity as to a person’s ethnicity. But under normal circumstances my relations with people are not influenced by their skin color.

This does seem to say something, however, about the history of peoples and especially about the history of America and other places where sharp distinctions have been made regarding peoples of differing skin color. Moreover, the kind of comment that this lady made I have always associated with those who were inclined to have a demeaning attitude toward someone of differing color. But then, perhaps this, too, is part of America’s history, where people of certain skin color have long been treated as though they were not only different but of a lesser importance. But then again, her comment could merely be reflective of the seemingly natural tendency toward homogeneity among peoples of differing backgrounds.

As we continued conversing as we walked to our vehicles in the parking lot this lady suddenly turned and asked, “Are you a preacher?” “Yes, I am,” I responded. “Oh, it’s a good thing I talked to you, today,” she replied.

This sometimes happens when I speak with people. I find it curious that this occurs in conversations where I have said nothing that I would consider as distinctive regarding me being one placed into the pastoral office. Even without speaking specifically of the Lord or of God or of the Bible or of religion, this lady suddenly responded with the realization that I was a preacher. Other times people have used terms and phrases like, man of God, a man who is close to God, and a man full of the Holy Spirit.

I do not find such comments to be curious when in the conversations I have spoken freely regarding matters of the faith, but when no such matters have been discussed, I find myself wondering what caused the person to think of me as a pastor or as a man of God. Since it would interrupt the flow of the conversation, I don’t ask people what moved them in this direction of their thinking. Morever, it really does not matter. Nevertheless I go my way wondering.

I suppose that such realization on the part of the individual does have an impact upon our conversation. Often a heightened level of trust seems to be displayed. In this instance, we continued to converse, only we moved into more personal matters regarding her sons and some of her troubles in their relationship. Perhaps the conversation would have moved in this direction simply because she sensed that I cared. I don’t know. Yet I do find it curious that people occasionally identify me as a pastor or preacher or man of God without anything being said that I would expect to give them this indication.

I do enjoy conversing with people. I do care about people deeply. I do welcome the opportunities that arise when people choose to talk about matters that are important in their lives. So, whatever the reason, whether people simply sense in my personality and words an indication of who I am in Christ, or whether the Holy Spirit moves them in such thinking, I am glad for the opportunities that are produced.

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