She wedged herself into the seat next to me and glanced at me sideways. I looked the other way. She was overweight and her fingernails were painted green. Her hair was dyed black and she was dressed in a long, black knit skirt with a black hoodie. Her whole being reeked of fads and gothicness, and my nose remained firmly attracted to the opposite wall. She coughed, then sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve. My toes curled. Any nurse-to-be knows that cleanliness and preventive measures are vital to maintaining good health. This girl was going to give me the plague! Weren't there some…some… spiders on the far wall? It certainly appeared so. But maybe my eyes were just bugging from desperation. When the teacher called on Miss Black to recite homework, she studied the end of her pencil stub. "I didn't get to that," she muttered.
And so it seemed ordained to always be. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Miss Black would wedge herself into her seat, shuffle her feet, wipe her nose, and not have her homework done.
However, one night after hall meeting, I happened to overhear Miss Black (who lived on my wing) talking very excitedly to another girl about signing for deaf people. Her face literally glowed as she described how many people do not realize the extent of deafness in the US, because the deaf have adjusted to their handicap so well. She told about the need for signers, most of all, and sensitivity on the part of hearing people to the needs of the deaf.
I was floored. This girl knew a lot that I didn't, even if she didn't know her english. I had seen another side of Miss Black--a side that I liked--a side that I wouldn't mind knowing. I was ashamed of my former prejudice, and resolved to make amends quickly.
At first there was justified suspicion in her attitude, but soon that melted into a shy friendship, and I discovered beneath the black veneer a warm, caring, sensitive personality. Not only did she sign for the deaf, but she drew amazingly well! Many times I would go to the dayroom, only to find her at a table, busily working on an assignment. One time I expressed a desire to see a project that I had only heard about. The girl brought her art folder into my room and showed me all the assignments done to that point, then she showed me how to shade using different pencils and hardnesses, and how to view using a view stick. She answered a dozen questions that I had about drawing, and even let me experiment with her charcoal sticks!
A few Sundays later, I sat near the back of the church and noticed the girl standing, signing to a group of deaf. She saw me and waved, smiling. She was dressed nicely, and obviously was very happy serving the deaf with a servant's heart.
Our friendship continued to grow, and I slowly saw the sensitive girl emerge more and more from her shell of black insecurity as she took joy in serving her chosen people.
I am grateful that God allowed me to see beneath her shell that night, and gave me a chance to "make up." I think He allowed that on purpose. I think that perhaps He was telling me,
"Missy-with-the-Upturned-Nose, don't despise my child so. I created her, and I love her. You don't know everything; in fact, you could learn a lot from her. I didn't run from the lepers. How can I use you as a vessel of mercy, if you run from everything that is ugly and hurt? You pray to grow in my likeness, yet when I give you opportunities, you ignore them. Here, take this. Eat this humble pie, and learn from it."
And I did.
The black shell is simply a shell of insecurity. It will wear off in time. And God doesn't love me one bit more than He loves her. That is the plain, simple truth.
I am no better than she is.