where a woman can build her strength and freedom

Can we begin to love our ugly neighbor?

Photo shows ugly dark ominous billowing storm clouds overhead.

Have you ever had a neighbor (or a classmate, co-worker or client)
who was so physically ugly you could hardly bear to look at them?
How about politically “ugly”?
So liberal! So conservative!
that you could hardly bear to talk with them?

I bet you have.
So have I.
But I also know how it feels
to be considered someone whose political views are ugly.
To be seen as one of “the basket of deplorables.”
–those stupid, racist bigots!–
by someone who misunderstands my perspective
and can’t see the love in my heart.

Yes, I’ve been on both sides of these destructive judgments.
And its just as tragic to judge our neighbor as ugly
as it is to be the judged that way ourselves.
But I don’t see people as ugly anymore,
neither physically nor politically.

Even people who make me feel sick to my stomach.
I am more able to love them now.
Want to know how I began moving in that direction?
Want to begin to move that way too?
Let me share a story with you.

Riders On the Storm

I used to be a clinical psychologist in a psychiatric hospital.
There was a patient in there who was so ugly I could not bear to look at her.

She was short, with short dark hair.
Kind of ordinary.
But I felt a deep darkness inside her.
She had big bulging desperate eyes.
Each looked in a different direction.
You couldn’t tell where she was looking,
but she was always searching.
I would pass her in the hall and have to look away.

Around that time,
I was getting into the music of Pink Floyd.
Saw them twice when they came through Toronto.

One day I heard their song On the Turning Away:” 

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand

Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away

It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known

Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite in a silent accord

Using words, you will find, are strange
Mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside

Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?

Pink Floyd – On the Turning Away

As I listened, I wept, thinking of that woman I couldn’t look at.
I felt ashamed.
I vowed I would not leave that job before I could look her in the eyes.

On the Unit

Well, I worked on the hospital unit where she lived.
I had started a weekly get together there in the lounge of that unit. 

All the patients were familiar with me because I was on that unit a lot.
And I had the thought that maybe the patients would like to sing.
So one day I just plunked myself down on one of the couches in the lounge
and started singing.
I don’t remember what.

Some rock song I figured everyone had heard some time.
I sang a few more songs,
and next thing I knew one of the patients came over and sat nearby
and started singing along with me.
Then another came, and another.
Sometimes one would launch into something and we would all join in.

And then the woman
…the one I couldn’t bear to look at…
comes over and sits with us
and starts singing

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house, we’re born

Into this world, we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm

The Doors – Riders on the Storm

I look her in the eyes
I see her
I hear her
 and God is right there listening with me

Dr. Hall