She lumbered in slowly and sat in the pew in front of me, balancing a cloth tote bag on one shoulder and a heavily laden handbag on the other. Her outfit was wrinkled and looked like it had been worn for several days. Her hair, held back from her face with a red plastic comb, clung stubbornly to the sides of her head.
I wondered where she'd come from and why she carried so much baggage with her. I sneeked a peek at the open tote bag balanced precariously at her side to find it held a newspaper. Had she read the Sunday News before coming to church or would the rolled up newspaper later serve as a pillow beneath her head once night came? I continued to peer over the contents of the open tote. Crumpled cling wrap looked to be easing itself to the surface of the bag. The leftover wrapper from a beakfast burrito? Or perhaps from last night's supper? I had difficulty paying attention to the service that had just begun. This woman was a distraction to what I'd anticipated as a quiet and meaningful time for me to worship.
The choir processed down the middle aisle and the parishoners sang along with the opening hymn, but I couldn't get my mind off the woman in front of me. I recalled my own frenzied Sunday morning preparations. I'd overslept so I hurried to get myself ready. The night before I'd stayed up much too late hemming a new pair of slacks that went perfectly with a jacket I'd purchased the week before. I was so looking forward to looking terrific, never mind the hour. After all, it was for Sunday services. I felt terrific as I saunterd into the Sanctuary...until she came and sat down in front of me.
I wondered if she'd stayed up late putting together her outfit for the morning's Ritual. And was her skirt newly purchased to go with the sweater she wore? And while I'd fretted over how my hair looked and did my makeup go on smoothly enough, did she do the same? Or was a freshly washed face and brushed-back hair sufficient for her day? Did she have to consider which pair of shoes looked best or was she wearing the only pair she owned?
No, I may not have payed sufficient attention to yesterday's service, but I had an epiphany of my own. It doesn't matter what I wore or how I looked. All that matters is that I was there to witness this woman who sat in front of me. The big question for me now is, What am I going to do about it?