He was standing by the inner library door when I came in, a funny mixture of boyish eagerness and innocence on his adult face. “Go ahead, young lady,” he said, pulling the inner door open for me.
“Oh, just a minute,” I answered, dumping my returns in the dropbox, happy from the autumn wind outside and my walk downtown.
“Thanks,” I said, taking his gift of an open door with airy confidence.
“You’re beautiful,” he mumbled pleasantly as I passed, and for a minute, my knee-jerk reaction kicked in, and I brushed on by, not willing to meet his eye, seeking the inner sanctuary of the library and the anonymity of hidden rows. My creep sensors were on red-alert and flight was the key option.
I made my decision in about a millisecond, and a millisecond later I regretted it. He’s not a creep, my heart said. He’s a man whose simplicity lacks a filter. I had been beautiful, I thought, for a little while—the day had made me so and bright thoughts running up toward God and back from Him had made me so—but in that one millisecond I felt suddenly ugly.
What if I had looked that man in the eye, smiled, and received his gift? What if I had let him beautify me by his blessing, as God’s wind and colors had also gifted me with beauty this day? What if I finally understood that my beauty (such as it is!) is not a gift for me to enjoy, but for those around me? What if I had said, “You are too,” and returned the blessing on his head?