Where charity abides
Emily of Hazelnut Reflections (hurray for Julian-inspired blogs!) has a wonderful post about an Evensong encounter in Canterbury several years ago.
When I was ten, my family was living in Bucharest for a year, and my mom was pregnant. That was right after the stories of the AIDS babies in Romanian orphanages broke, and our family went to Vienna, Austria to have the baby. This was in February 1991, during the first Gulf War. One afternoon, we went to the Naschmarkt. As we kids were staring wide-eyed at the vast array of stalls (especially after the scarcity and queues in just-post-Revolution Bucharest), a man behind a butcher counter heard us speaking English and asked if we were British.
"No, American," my dad replied. "Ah," the butcher replied. "I'm Iraqi." I remember I froze, preparing to close my ears against an onslaught of insults, to hurry my brother and sisters away as quickly as we could go.
"Well," the butcher said, after a moment. "Our countries may be at war, but we can be friends, no?" And he reached out his hand for my father to shake. Then he wrapped up several kinds of meat and sent them home with us. (We didn't want to spoil the moment by telling him we were vegetarian!)
The whole thing took less than five minutes. The Iraqi butcher probably forgot all about it a week later, when more customers came. But for 10-year-old me, it was a defining moment. The man was only an enemy in my mind. His instinct was for friendship and mine was for distrust.
Emily's post got me thinking about that Iraqi butcher and what a blessing it is when someone sees you as the person you are, not the person they're afraid of.