Monday, March 3, 2008

Lent '08 - Day 23: Standing Up in Public

While we were walking from Westlake Center to Pike Place on Saturday, I heard loud, aggressive, demeaning, and cutting language off to my right. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and searched instantly for its source. It was a lean-looking spandex-equipped biker waiting at the entry way to his Downtown condo. He was ridiculing a woman in a uniform with flyers and/or sign up sheets. I’m pretty sure she was with Metropolitan Improvement District of the Downtown Seattle Association. I stopped by the woman (10 feet from the man), and stared, still reeling to understand what was happening. He was using expletives to describe her size, her intelligence, her appearance. I didn’t see what, or even if, she did or say something that set him off. Within 5 seconds, she started asking me: “who is he talking to? Is he talking to me?” When the words got even more cutting, she got the picture, and started to walk away. I stared at the man for a few seconds, still dumb founded, and then walked with her briefly. He began to yell at us, “is that all you have to say? Nice response!” After talking briefly about not understanding what some people’s problems are, she stopped at the corner as we continued to walk forward. Mitch and I said good bye and expressed our hope that the rest of her day go better.

The whole situation has continued to trouble me since. I am disappointed with the way I handled it. While yes it’s good that I stopped, I didn’t really defend this woman being assaulted. I didn’t stand up this guy, and call him on how incredibly disrespectful he was being. This wasn’t a grey issue. It was black and white: no-one should be told the things that he was saying. I think his words struck a holy rage within me. No human bearing the stamp of God’s image should be treated with such contempt. I also failed with the follow up with the woman. Our conversation was too short to really show compassion and bring healing for her. Unless her skin is Kevlar, there’s no way his words didn’t affect her. I really should have asked more about what she does, what it’s like out here on the streets with tourists and condo-owners. Maybe should have been willing to share her story with us?

While I would not will this situation on anyone, I do want another chance to try again. I want to prove that I can speak up and that I can lay aside my own agenda for the sake others. We’ll se…

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