"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eye of the beholder...

I stopped by the Korean grocery today.  English is definitely not the first language there, but I go in often enough that despite the language barrier they recognize me.  Its friendly, if not exactly real relationship. 

And as I stopped in the back corner for the unlabeled plastic clamshells of kimchi (and marinated meat, too... you have to know what you're looking for and be able to read Korean labels to find this stuff!) I looked over, the door to the storage area being open, and saw on the floor a Korean grandmother, shredding scallions by hand.

I think she was making the kimchi I was buying.

She looked a little surprised to see a white American woman there, though not in the "you don't belong here"... more of an "oh, hello."  She smiled in the "I don't speak your language" sort of way, and I presume that despite living here, she truly does not.  I nodded and said hello in Korean, grabbed my kimchi, smiled, and went along.  I don't speak Korean, after all, beyond "Hello" "Do you speak English" and the stupidest question in the world "Where is the restroom?"  (The question is stupid because if you ask in a language other than your own, when you really gotta go, and someone answers you in the language you just asked in... have you helped yourself, gained information? or just wasted precious moments doing the potty dance while trying to remember "left" from "right."  See.  Stupid question.)

But after I got home, I still thought of this woman.  Simple.  Silent.  Doing what every Korean Halmoni has always done.  Unassuming and sitting on the floor in the back room, but where she could keep an eye on the comings and goings in the store.

I thought of how Americans don't like seeing from where their food comes.  How many people would be less comforted, not more, to think they were buying something made by a Korean gramma in a storage room right there in the store.   How many would never buy a plastic clamshell container of non-professionally packaged food, at all?  Especially if it was totally without a label, in the back of the Korean grocery store?

Of course all of those people would be missing out on the kimchiest kimchi in Pittsburgh.

 But they'd all be missing out on Korean Halmonis who have mystery behind their eyes, and a peaceful and timeless presence.  She could have been any woman in any shop around the world, making native food in the native ways, and nobody would have thought a thing about it.  But because she's in America, she's a curiosity.

And moreover, she's beautiful.   She's beautiful because she's not a super model.  She's beautiful because she has wrinkles.  Yes, because of them.  She's beautiful because her hands make something that people use.  And she's beautiful because she smiles, even with her eyes, at random Americans who mispronounce Korean hellos and awkwardly attempt to sound out labels for kimchi.

I wish we valued more of that kind of beautiful. 

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