I was walking along near these parts in early evening, and a very tall very thin very young black woman suddenly materialized at my elbow: "Excuse me, hey!" I averted my face reflexively and stepped out a bit and she said "Oh my god no I don't want anything, just do you know the nearest BART?" and then I actually looked at her and she was just this ordinary girl in a hurry but lost. I told her the way and managed a smile, even though I hated myself.
Reading this upset me because I could see myself doing the exact same thing. I attribute this to fear. Fear of what, I’m not sure, but fear keeps me from looking at people, helps me keep my distance, prevents me from getting involved.
I’m reminded of these words from 1 John 4.18:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear
My experience suggests that the opposite is also true: fear can keep love out. Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of? I don’t know, but I do know that it is my fear that causes me to judge.
I wonder if that was true of Simon, the Pharisee that Jesus visited in Luke 7.36-50. A woman shows up at the meal and begins crying and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. Simon is quick to note that the woman is a sinner and is offended that Jesus is allowing this action to take place. Jesus takes the opportunity to tell Simon a story, but what gets me the most is the comment Jesus makes after he concludes his story.
Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman?"
Simon ‘saw’ the woman the same way Tim Bray first ‘saw’ the lost girl in San Francisco and the same way I ‘see’ most strangers on the street.
Yet again, I find I have more in common with the Pharisees than Jesus. What am I so afraid of? What will happen if I actually look at the people I pass? How much love am I keeping out as I cling to my fear?