In The Eye of the Beholder

May 16, 2009 § 5 Comments

Note to Rascal Flatts: I understand that, after reading this story, you’ll most likely want to write a song about it. I think it’s right up your alley. Feel free.

It’s been that kind of a day today.

I struggle, sometimes, with the superficiality of my job. It’s loads of fun, but in the end I am still expected to close the deal. I’ve always done well in sales and always felt a little funny about it… I mean, it’s not like I’m saving lives. I’m selling dresses. Important dresses, sure, but dresses. I’m working for the man and the empire. I’m not really doing anything all that meaningful.

Today, what I do mattered. Today, I was humbled and smacked upside the head for being short-sighted and cynical. Today was a good day.

You see, we have this dress. It’s an old, old dress that’s been hanging around the sample sale pile for at least six or seven years. The edges are yellowing and the beadwork looks like it has narrowly survived a natural disaster. The neckline is cut remarkably high, a look that screams 1994 and would make most conservative grandmothers rather happy. There is a giant, cliche, borderline farcical bow that snaps (yes, snaps… biggaudymetal snaps) on just above the badonkadonk. It’s not a very pretty picture, this dress in its sorry old plastic bag.

I’ve been mocking this dress. I’ve been whining about it, threatening to donate it, and claiming that its presence alone was a threat to our credibility as a retail establishment. I’ve implied, nay, insisted that it could not possibly serve a purpose on this planet, ever. As you can imagine, I haven’t done so subtly. I’ve been a big jerk to this dress.

Today. Today, the sweetest bride arrives with an army of annoyed looking women who practically vibrate around the store, exchanging unhappy phrases in Japanese. They are skeptical of price, have only so much to spend, have been treated poorly. They are protective of the bride, and they are fierce. Somehow, in the frenzy and the yelling and the buzzing, they emerge with the dress. I cringe, subtly (I do at least that much subtly), and obligingly hang my nemesis in the fitting room.

It isn’t until the bride is undressing that I see the scars… the open, new, painfully raw scars that are freckled across her torso and neck. They huddle in with the lumps of small tumors, bruises, and unnatural indentations. The cancer, she says, took her hair… she had beautiful hair. I, for once, have nothing to say.

I know I don’t have to tell you how this all went down. You are smarter than me, and you’ve seen it already. That dress, that ugly, forgotten, embarrassing dress, covered those scars perfectly. It will take work to make it beautiful, but the work will be done, and the beginning is there. She had a thousand dollars to spend, and bought my least favorite dress at $125. It will be rebeaded, restored, refinished, and it will cover her scars. She had been looking for quite awhile for a dress that would make her feel safe and beautiful on her wedding day, and that dress will be the one. She has an impossibly wonderful smile.

There was joy, today. They thanked me, and hugged me, and left happy. I sat in the back room for awhile and let myself cry.

We are short-sighted. We look so often at something, someone, and fail to see the potential through the missing pieces, the stains, the broken parts. We forget that God is in the timing. We forget that He takes broken edges and fits them together like puzzle pieces, creates something beautiful from something tattered, harbors a perfect plan for what we have rejected. Often it is the smallest of things that reminds us. I am reminded today.

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