This post makes me a little bit sad and I think you will be sad as well once you have heard this story. After waiting as long as I could, trust me when I say it was long and overdue, I ventured into my favorite local nail salon this morning. I have been getting manicures and pedicures on occasion for many years and have frequented several different locations, so I feel qualified to say that this salon really ranks with the best. They are clean, professional, quiet and, based on all of my experiences, very nice. That being said, if you have ever visited a nail salon, you know the ethnicity of most of the technicians is Vietnamese. English is usually not their first language. Seinfeld had a roaring success of an episode based on the language barrier and the rapid fire conversation that takes place between the workers in their native language followed by the halting English spoken to one of the characters of the show. That episode is very true to life. Sometimes, if you close your eyes, you can almost transport yourself to Saigon as the ambience and sounds are so cultural. I feel fortunate to have grown up in my generation where segregation and racism is not as much of an issue as my parent’s generation faced. That is not to say that racism is not something that still needs to be addressed, but from my perspective I don’t see race as a defining trait but rather a part of someone that is unique and interesting. This will be important in a minute.
Today was busy at the nail salon. Every nail station and pedicure chair was full and technicians were working with multiple clients. Next to a dentist, I can’t think of many other jobs that I would not want to perform. Washing feet for a living just does not sound like fun. The ladies who work at the salon, though, are always cheerful, joyful and diligent. These are hard workers! They typically open at 9am, after driving an hour in traffic, work through lunch and stay until 9pm or later only to drive back home and take care of their families. The pay is not fantastic and from my observations, tips are not that great either. I like to people watch so having to wait is not a frustrating thing for me to do if my feet are soaking in hot, soapy water and I am sitting in a chair that massages my back. As a matter of fact, this is one of the main reasons I go to the salon. There is nothing like this experience and I always hope for a delay to extend my stay. This morning, I had a coffee in one hand and a magazine in the other while I enjoyed some quiet time, interrupted only by sincere apologies from my manicurist for being too slow. Despite my reassurances, she persisted in begging forgiveness. It was not long after this encounter, that one of the owners walked up and thanked me for being so nice to his sister. I had never talked to him before and really was not sure what he was talking about in the first place. Then he continued speaking and I am quite certain that I will not soon forget his words. He said that his family escaped from Vietnam when they were little and children were being taken from their homes during the days of the Vietnam conflict. He has not seen his parents since that time. They came to America, where they lived in a community and managed to take care of each other. They could not attend school as they did not speak English but rather worked to support their “village”. They are able to learn English now as their children attend school and come home to share their education with the adults. He said that most people do not have patience and are either mean or rude to them about the language barrier. He said that often his sister cries because women are so hateful to her. He then said that she always remembers me because I have been nice to her and take time to ask about her and her family. Wow! I was not expecting this type of conversation this morning or really, anytime. I am ashamed to say that I am not always patient or nice and immediately wondered how many people I might have hurt in the past on account of my frustration or irritation because a conversation did not go the way I anticipated it should. It’s so easy to have an entitled feeling. I am not sure why as I am certainly no better than any other person that I may encounter. This applies to shoppers in the grocery, other patrons at the DMV or even to family members. God is no respecter of persons. Matthew 23:11, and subsequently all the other 3 Gospels, states that “if we want to be first, then we must be servants to all.” This is pretty self-explanatory language. I have no right to esteem myself higher than any other person and actually am not acting as a Christian if I am not serving others. This does not translate to literally mopping floors as a slave but rather the motives and actions of my heart toward others.
I felt my heart break a little this morning thinking of how difficult it must be to come to a place where you know no one, speak not the local language and further receive treatment that is hostile and unwarranted when you are literally washing the feet of those who are so mean. Sound familiar? Yup, to me also. Jesus felt this way on my account. He teaches me lessons all the time in ways that make it ever apparent to my finite mind how much He loves me. How can I not be a reflection of Him to others I encounter. This is my daily prayer, “Lord, make me like you!” Today I also added a prayer for my “nail girl” and asked God to help me continue to share His love with her.