I’ve got a story for you. I’m pretty sure you haven’t heard it before unless you heard it from me many years ago. If you’re a church person I might not have told you because it involves a graphic scene of something best not spoken of at the dinner table.
I could go lots of different ways with this story. It happened to a friend of mine and I could tell you about navigating the shifting ground of our friendship. Or I could tell you about her brilliant creativity, her beauty, her fragility. I could go in the direction of dirty jokes as I suspect, after reading this, some of you will. I could make this story about white privilege or the comeuppance of the wealthy, or the narcissism of New Yorkers. I could make several points about Divine Humor. I could even make this about the power of animals to open our eyes.
But I’m not pursuing any of those points. The take-away which I offer to you is this: Pay attention. Since we are in the season of Easter I can’t help thinking how we might not even have this crucifixion/resurrection story if the disciples had been paying attention.
What if one of them had paid attention to Judas? Would he have noticed anything suspicious about his behavior? What if Mary had paid attention to her intuition that warned, “There is something about Judas,”?
If someone in the crowd has paid attention they might have told Jesus, “Don’t piss off Pilate with your grassroots palm parade. He is having a big procession across town. Revenge will be his.” If any of the disciples had paid attention, they would have been at the foot of the cross with Mary and the other women.
Pay attention. If you read the gospels it’s easy to see that Jesus is saying this all the time. “Consider the lilies of the field . . .” “Let the children come to me!” “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” Pay attention—to nature, to the children, to the poor.
Jesus even questions that to which we do pay attention: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
So now I see there are two points to my story: Pay attention and watch where you put your attention. Yes—two points. So here’s the story.
My friend E. was in New York city taking the bus to her job at the Muppet Workshop. She actually helped make Muppets! This was before cell phones and the internet and she usually read a book on her morning commute. But on this particular morning she forgot her book. So she was resigned to looking out the window. Of course traffic in Manhattan is terrible and at one point, the bus came to a full stop. The bus was in a very ritzy part of Manhattan, well-dressed men in suits and ties and women in heels, matching purses, and coiffed hair.
The bus was at a total standstill, not moving at all. E. was looking out the window and right next to her, on the sidewalk, was a woman wearing a mink coat. She was crouched down, the hem of her mink piling on the dirty ground. The woman was absorbed in a Vogue magazine which she held in one hand. Her other hand was covered with a plastic bag which was cupped under her tiny dog’s rear end.
The tiny dog was squatting and straining. The woman was intently reading Vogue. Just as the dog produced the digestive gem, a gust of wind came up and blew the bag off her hand. The fecal treasure dropped into her (now bare) outstretched palm. She dropped the magazine, stared at her hand and began vomiting on the sidewalk. Then the traffic cleared and the bus pulled away.
E. said it was like watching a very short morning movie. From that day forward she never again read on the bus. She always looked out the window and paid attention.