I’ve mentioned before about how most small towns have unusual characters who are disrespected and mocked as an embarrassment to the community. These outcast individuals are remembered for their strange behavior, while who they really are is hardly ever mentioned.
I’ve spoken with some of these people in the past and discovered they are not homeless or penniless; they just enjoy walking around and doing what makes them happy. They wave when people honk their horns and will gladly take a sandwich if you bring them one.
I read a story a while back about two young girls who were playing on the front porch. One spotted an older woman coming down the sidewalk, pushing a tattered baby carriage and wearing old wrinkled clothes. Most people around town knew her as “crazy Mary,” the lady who picked up odds and ends from the trash.
The girls started mocking her and calling her names, laughing and giggling. Even after the woman was out of sight, they continued talking about her and judging her harshly until they looked up to see one girl’s father staring at them. He sent the friend home and calmly told his daughter to go upstairs and change into her church dress. He said they were going for a walk and on the way he wanted her to think about what she had done and to prepare an apology for being cruel.
After a while of awkward silence with only the sound of their footsteps on the sidewalk, they came to a small shack. The father knocked on the door. The lady inside slowly opened the door, and the girl’s father said they had come to say hello if it was all right. She graciously invited them inside. It was a small room filled with trinkets and the basics of living, and the little girl watched nervously as the woman proceeded to make tea.
The father spoke up and said that before they could partake in her generosity, his daughter had something she wanted to say. The little girl presented a seemingly sincere apology, and he took the tray from Mary and placed it on the only table in the room. The conversation was about the weather and other topics of small talk until the father stood and thanked her for her kind hospitality. The walk home was again uncomfortable as the little girl’s mind was swirling. Did something happen in Mary’s life that caused her to be this way? And then she thought about how people condemn this woman just because she’s poor (like she and her friend had done earlier).
When they arrived home, she went up to her room and stared out the window. She thought about how things are not always the way they seem and how everyone walks a different path within their journey. We are unique in our own way but just because we’re different does not mean we are bad or deserve to be treated harshly. Her dad never mentioned it again and neither did she. There was no reason to.
DR. BILLY HOLLAND lives in central Kentucky with his wife, Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. Ask for the free Scripture CD, “Keeper of my Soul,” at billyhollandministries.com.