Often a Smile and Acknowledgement Goes a Long Way

Seeking the Imago Dei

I was stopped at an intersection while driving home from church a few Sunday’s ago. There, crossing under the overpass, was a man and woman walking to the nearest shopping center. Many people walk this way to get to the nearest Publix, Target, or fast food restaurant. That’s not unusual, but this couple was different. Honestly, I can’t tell you if they were a mother-son pair or a couple because I didn’t look at them long enough to gather detailed information. You see, this man and woman were physically and, by appearances, mentally disabled. Their gait was severely labored and their outward demeanor, even at a glance, was that of people who have a tough time getting by.

Instinctively, I looked away and focused my attention on the red light in front of me. I didn’t want to stare at this man and woman in an attempt not to draw attention to their obvious physical weaknesses. Looking back, I wonder if that was the right response.

Often, when I see others with visible handicaps, my first reaction is to turn away after a quick smile in order to not embarrass them. By embarrass them, I mean draw more attention to them than any other person I pass in the super market or restaurant. I inwardly assume that they have faced the mocking of peers or ignorant jests of misguided people, and I do not want to even hint at drawing on their differences. Rather, I simply acknowledge them as fellow people worth treating with dignity, respect, and assistance if I can provide any. But I wonder if, by ignoring their differences, I am ignoring something special that God wants me to see.

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