The store suddenly filled up with people, impatient people. I went from browsing lazily to feeling that I had to simply get out of the store and out of everyone's way. The store staff, all lovely to a one, kept giving cold social stares at those customers who acted as if their life would fall apart because they had to step around me. It's a small store with big minded employees. As I headed to the door, leaving Joe to make the purchases, I noticed that someone was coming in from outside. Awesome, if he'd hold the door for me my exit would be done quickly and simply.
I noticed immediately two things. First the door he opened was blocked by a display, I needed the other door opened for me. Second, the man had been in some serious fire as his face was deeply scarred and both hands were missing fingers. His eyes, the colour of melted ice, were friendly but fearful. I asked him if he would mind holding open the other door. He smiled, the skin pulled in a way that looked painful but that I could sense was not, nodded and opened the other door for me. I rolled by him saying, 'Thanks.'
It was such a normal interchange between two strangers. I felt his breath before I noticed that he had followed me a step behind. He whispered into my ear, 'God bless you man, god bless you ... and you know what for.' Then he was gone, into the store. I sat outside fighting tears.
I know why he thanked me. I was the one that he let out, but I was also the one that let him in. Let him into a simple and normal transaction. A transaction not fraught with anything but giving and receiving. I didn't feel saintly for treating him with the casual friendliness of strangers, he didn't feel saintly for holding the door for someone who could not open it himself. We just were for a moment, two people in a normal relationship with each other.
He doesn't get much of that.
Nor do I.
He blessed me for noticing his difference but not letting it make a difference. But I didn't want to be 'blessed' ... somehow I'm angered by the fact that we live in a world where men with burned faces develop wary eyes. I'm angered by the fact that an unremarkable encounter becomes a remarkable occurrence. I'm angry.
Without knowing his story, I know that his journey has been hard. I know that the life he has is one that he had to have fought for. I know that he rises every morning knowing that he will face those who react to his face. And yet, and yet, and yet, it took me hours to realize that there is a miracle here. Not the modern miracle of the self obsessed society ... water into whine ... no the miracle is, that after all he's been through, he had a blessing left to offer. He must have a heart as deep as God's back pocket.