We had a two-fold vacation experience this year: We spent the first part of our vacation in Taos, New Mexico and the second part in Red River. Though only 45 minutes apart, they are two very different places. Red River is filled with campers, hikers, and fishermen; Taos is more of an artistic community with painters, sculptors, and musicians. One of my daughter's hopes this year was that she would get to play her guitar in some public "street" forum and possibly receive donations for her efforts. Money aside, she really just wanted the experience of being a "street musician." Her opportunity came while in Taos though in a way we had not expected...
While carrying her guitar and walking across the plaza (headed to the section where most of the street musicians play) she passed by a group, (which I later described), of "homeless, hippies, and the high." In short, there were a group of "outcasts" sitting in the park. As she was walking by one of them said, "Are you going to play your guitar for us?" Beth thought about it a minute then said, "Ok!" Now I have to share with you that Beth is 39 years old, and has some "developmental challenges." She is not always discerning of people and situations which results in her being exceptionally friendly (she will say "hello" to almost anyone) and also, at times, vulnerable. But without hesitation she sat down, took out her guitar, and began singing. Not wanting to interfere (and not wanting to leave her alone) I stood near by and watched. Her audience seemed to enjoy her performance greatly. They didn't give her any money, but one fellow did offer her a puff from his "bong." (Beth graciously declined.). Beth didn't play long, but she played along enough; and then we moved on to another (more normal) section of the Plaza where she played for a different crowd.
Having disabilities has, throughout the years, created many challenges for Beth; but it has also given her a great gift: Beth does not see people through the eyes of prejudice, judgement, criticism, or scorn. Beth just sees interesting people and she is always ready to meet them and visit with them. In short she has no pretense.
It is helpful, especially these days, to be appropriately discerning. Not everyone we meet is going to be our friend; some may well be ready to do us harm. But as I watched Beth playing her guitar for a group of Taos's "not outstanding" citizens, I thought how she, more than many, sees people as Jesus saw people: just people. Some are homeless, some are broken, some are addicted, but all are worthy of a few minutes of our time and attention and in many ways we might "make their day" if we, like Beth, will only stop to share with them a song.
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Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.