On Monday I had the pleasure of going to see my doctor who wanted to do some blood work. When I sat down in the lab and stuck out my arm… a young woman who I supposed was African and fully covered in her dress and a more experienced nurse who I supposed was Indian or Pakistani in scrubs ... came over. The younger woman was obviously in training.
The two of them poked around my arm for a longer than a little while and finally decided which vein to extract the necessary amount of blood from me with the least amount of discomfort. The younger woman was a bit shy and a bit uncomfortable about attempting to poke the vein they had chosen. I’m not sure if I was feeling gratitude that this young woman knew her limits or if I was feeling that sense of responsibility that maybe it was just my turn for someone to learn how to draw blood from a difficult vein. I reached out my free hand and gave the younger woman a little tap on the elbow, you know, just a tap, and said, “It’s Ok, give it a try.” She smiled at me and said, “Oh no, no…”
Even before the more experienced nurse found a place to stick the needle, I felt something prickly going on inside my sensitivities. I was wondering… had it been uncomfortable for that young woman that I had reached out and touched her in the way that I had and at a moment when she was already uncomfortable because she wasn’t going give it a try. She didn’t say anything, didn’t change her demeanor with me. This is all on me.
This experience has, if you will pardon the pun, stuck with me. It connects with this sense of being a bit cautious at this time of year about how we extend Christmas greetings. Although it makes life a bit more complicated and even a bit messy at times, I believe paying attention to the sensitivities of others also makes life much more interesting and is closer to the intention of God coming to be one of us in that baby born in a manger than we might first expect.
Here’s the thing for me at least, these new cultural boundaries help me pay attention not only to what is important to someone else, but what is also important to me. My experience with most folks who are different from me is that it’s only when we really know what is important to ourselves that we can develop the capacity to truly understand another. There may be a lot of important differences in this world, but there are also a few common denominators. When we develop that capacity to discover the common denominators, it widens our world and when my world is widened, often so is my faith.
This is the time of year when many of us are moved and stirred in ways that reveal our faith’s intentions: God chooses to work through normal everyday people, people like Mary and Joseph, to fulfill God’s promises. And God chooses to become “Emmanuel,” one of us, in of all things….a child. At Christmas time, what we Christians are really so merry about is…. Who knows in whom God is going to reveal Godself next?
I may not know who God is revealing Godself in fully today, but for now I’m just glad Javier cooks my bacon and there are nurses out there who know how to draw my blood. I’m glad there are young women out there who help me remember what it is like to just be starting out in life. I’m also glad that there are others who help me pay attention to and make wider my capacity to care about others in something closer to the same way God cared about us all in the birth of Jesus.
Keep the Faith,