Just the other day...I went to eat at a restaurant with some friends and I've been "haunted" ever since. From a distance, I noticed a woman that looked vaguely familiar so I asked my friends, "Is that 'Anna'?" To my surprise, it was! Wow. I hadn't seen her in years! I really couldn't even recall the last time I had seen her.
I had grown up with Anna, literally. She and I attended the same schools (elementary, middle, and high school). By worldly standards, she was from a very poor family and as we all know, in elementary school, if you are different in any way, other children will pick up on that fact. That certainly happened in Anna's situation. Kids made fun of her and teased her endlessly. I remember it so well. I don't remember ever making fun of her, but I don't remember standing up for her either. I DO remember her tears, especially when we were in elementary school, and I also remember her lashing out. Sometimes she could take the teasing and seemed as tough as nails. Sometimes it was more than she could bare. As a mother, I can't imagine that happening to one of my little girls day-after-day. Looking back, I'm so sad that it happened to Anna (and that it happens to any child)! I'm also very ashamed that I didn't have the courage to befriend her. I know deep down it's because I was afraid of being ridiculed myself, scared to invite the same kind of teasing into my life. Still, I wonder...if I had taken the time to get to know her...to sit with her at lunch...to invite her over to my house...could she have been one of my best friends? Even more than that, could her life be different today because someone actually cared?
I stated that I was haunted by seeing Anna because I literally can't forget seeing her again. I got to speak to her for a brief moment that day. She remembered me. She didn't say much at all. I didn't say too much either. I know a part of me really wanted her to smile with confidence, to look me in the eye, and to chit-chat like old buddies for a bit..."How are you? What have you been doing since high school? Blah, blah, blah..." I would love to have discussed marriage or children or whatever. But that didn't happen. What happened was this...I still saw pain...a hurting little girl in the shell of a woman who wanted to run away from someone who reminded her of painful memories...and it bothers me to no end.
If I could, I mean, if she wouldn't think I was completely nuts(!), I would go to her right now and hug her and tell her how sorry I am. I would tell her that she is beautiful in the eyes of God. I would explain to her the Father's heart and tell her that it explodes with love just for her. I would tell her that to God, she matters immensely and has matchless value. And I'd probably weep as I told her that God sees every deep hurt, every scar, every wound inflicted from those years of ridicule. I'd tell her how much it had bothered God to see her go through so much pain and how much it hurts Him at this moment to see her nursing those wounds to this day. I would encourage her to run to Him for healing and full restoration and I'd help her do that! And after that, I would apologize for not standing up for her...for not reaching out...for not caring to be a friend to her when she needed one the most.
In my make-believe perfect world, that's exactly the conversation I would have with Anna.
Furthermore, in my make-believe perfect world, no child would ever, ever be made fun of because of a lack of finances...or for any other reason for that matter!!!
I've tried to evaluate why I have had such strong feelings since seeing Anna again (cause that's just what I do). Besides the possibility that I may see her again one of these days, and aside from the fact that the Lord may very well lead me to step out of my comfort zone (yikes!) and actually share with her some of the imaginary conversation written above, I'm thinking my answer is this...
There are those just like Anna around me all the time! There are those who desperately need a friend. There are opportunities to physically show the love of Jesus to those that society has stamped 'worthless'. Sometimes I notice, but more often than not, I am too busy with my own agenda. And while I'm self-centered, opportunity after opportunity passes...and people go on hurting...needlessly.
Lord, help me to notice every "Anna".
Help me to truly love each one You place before me.