I’m a chronic people watcher, or rather, I stare at people. For long, uncomfortable periods of time. Beautiful people, ugly people, old people, young people, fat people, skinny people… doesn’t really matter. I just find people interesting and so I stare, pierce through their soul, and take a piece of them with me. Is that so terrible? Okay, in those terms, yes. It’s not polite to stare and steal souls. Fine, I get it.
The thing is, people are complex and messy. They can’t always be organized and categorized into neat little packages. My mind likes to do that, and it seems that when I’m unable to do that I’ll just stare, blankly, until I can somehow conjure up a place for that particular person. So I guess that’s also a roundabout, subconscious way of confessing that I sit and judge people. There, I said it. Sometimes I just suck as a person.
There are few places better for people staring, err watching, than New Orleans. My mind just goes on sensory overload until I’m rubber-necking every which way. By the time I make it back to my hotel bed I can barely keep my big head from bobbing off my shoulders.
This trip I was pretty convicted by my eye pilfering and subsequent self-righteousness. No, I’m not apologizing for staring at the midget in a suit sitting on a high stool outside the strip club beckoning passers-by to come inside. His little feet all dangling in the air. I just wish I could have seen him climb up there. Both times we pass by (to and from lunch, not just to get a better look thank you) my wife has to say “don’t look.” What?!? Are you NUTS? First off, don’t ever say that to me of all people. Second, if she were to not say anything and then drop that bombshell on me later I would have been a bit peeved.
“Hey, would you please pass the ketchup. Oh, on the way here I saw a midget in a suit on a stool outside a strip club. So where do you want to go for dinner?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back it up sister.”
No, on this particular occasion we were having lunch at some place on Decatur Street at a high top table next to the bar when an unusual and seemingly mis-matched couple take a seat at the bar. She was cute, considerably younger and clearly an extrovert chatting it up with anyone that made eye contact. (I think she startled one poor lady that wasn’t ready for her “bubbly”, in your face personality.) At first I assume she’s drunk, or possibly an escort because of her outfit and mis-matched date at her side. Their kiss didn’t help that perception. She did one of those aggressive gaping mouth, tongue out, bite your partner’s bottom lip and tug maneuvers perhaps better suited for more intimate settings? Okay, it’s settled, prostitute. I didn’t have to look I guess, but COME ON. You’re KILLING me.
As our food arrives and we dig in she bounces up and around a bit then bolts out the door. What the??? Just some crazy ass folks in NOLA I guess. But no, she returns a couple minutes later with another woman and two young girls about 6 and 7 years old. Her pizza arrives and she instructs the waitress to seat the family of three, and that the pizza she ordered was for the family she brought in off the street “because they looked hungry.”
Today is one of those days I suck as a person.
She proceeds to ask the bartender to pour them all sodas and charge her bill for whatever the drinks cost. The bartender refuses to charge her for the drinks because of her kind and generous display. Now there’s a love fest going on with the waitress, bartender, the couple at the bar, the family of 3… and I still suck as a person, but it’s an awesome lesson to learn. In yet another display of great humanity she writes her name and number on a napkin and gives it to the youngest girl and tells her to call her, anytime, if ever she needs anything at all… a ride to school or church… whatever she needs. Beautiful.
Fast forward to the next morning. Breakfast at Stanley in Jackson Square. A crowded diner with views of street performers and palm readers, the amazing artists selling their art, and of course, everyone passing by. A man in a suit followed closely by a girl 1/2 his age nervously pulling at her hair, dressed in what looked like last nights little black dress, hurry by and duck into a building across the street. Gotta be a prostitute.
DANG IT!! What’s wrong with me?!
Seriously. Apparently in my simple little mind, everyone’s a prostitute in New Orleans.
I’m convicted. It’s something I will work on this year and every year after. I’m a work in progress and have a long way to go to overcome my simplemindedness and my judgmental ways.
I’m immediately reminded of Matthew 7:1-2:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Always a sobering reminder of who I am in light of who Christ is and what He’s done for me, the chief among sinners. So my prayer for today, Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”