Archive | December, 2013

An important woman

31 Dec

Her dark, tangled hair touches her shoulders as she bends over with her scrub brush. Her clothes are unwashed and the cuts on her legs are unbandaged. There is a hole in her left shoe. Scrubbing floors does not pay for the food in her baby son’s stomach, and it does not pay for the pain she feels knowing that nobody knows who she is. She has no husband, no parents, no church and no siblings.

Her employer is her scrub brush and her office is a brightly lit corner during the day, the corner where she panhandles and begs for food, and a dark corner at night where she sells herself to pay for the rags on her son’s back. Home is a condemned building and the sound of sirens every night. Whether they are coming for her, she never knows. Her only crime is betraying her integrity and devaluing herself to feed her little boy. She has no resources and no hope.

 She doesn’t know where the food bank is, and she doesn’t know how to find a shelter or a soup kitchen. She waves her hand on the corner and flags down cars or people on foot, asking if they will let her scrub their floor today for the price of a grain of wheat.

The blisters on her hands and feet and the rough patches on her knees speak, to anyone who listens closely, of long days spent kneeling against the floor of someone’s kitchen, working for a grain of wheat and praying for mercy this time. The bruises on her lips and thighs speak of another, darker commerce. She has no influence on anyone and she has no voice, no privilege, no rights. She has no power. She is at our mercy, abused and used for everyone’s gain but her own. She cannot look anyone in the eye.

She is in every neighborhood, in every country, in every era, and her dirty skin is every color. She is in your country, and she survives on your streets. You don’t know her, but you’ve seen her. Without saying a word, she spoke to you. She told you that she is the most important woman in the world, because how we treat her reveals the condition of our individual hearts and of our species as a whole. She is the gauge by which the soul of the world is measured.

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I wrote this two years ago when I heard somebody call Michelle Obama “the most important woman in the world.”

It made me wonder just how we gauge who is “important.” I thought, who are we to judge who is the most important woman? What if this woman was the most important woman in the world? What then? Why does anyone, anyone, have to do anything to be considered “important?” Is it not enough to just be?

So I wrote something describing a woman who is another kind of important. Just to make you think. 

When this woman speaks, do we listen? Do you listen?

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