Standing at a rack of clothing, sorting through one-of-a-kind, second-hand items at a large store, I overhear a conversation between a cognitively disabled worker—a woman in her forties—and her manager-coworker, another woman who is in her early to mid-twenties.
“Are you headed home after you finish that rack, Marguerite?” the manager intones, glancing back across her shoulder. The manager is clearly bright, fast and on the move, keeping everything and everyone in the store up and humming.
“Yes,” the disabled woman answers with a broad smile expanding across her face, “my puppies are waiting for me for a walk and dinner.” Her head tilts slightly to the left as her words drag out. Her self-applied lipstick is gently defying her upper-lip line in a couple of places.
“How many puppies do you have, Marguerite?” the manager shoots back more out of politeness than actual interest.
“Three,” Marguerite responds with her smile growing even broader as she glows even brighter—thinking about her canine companions waiting at home.
This is the point at which I have to stop my mindless sorting and face my shame. My second sight has kicked in. When I look up from the clothing rack where I stand to see and hear the last exchange, the sheer brilliance of Marguerite’s spiritual space is stunning, holy and radiant purple—unprecedented. Purple is the color I associate most with individuals on a committed spiritual path or with those in profound spiritual alignment.
My shame is complete, displacing all other thoughts and emotions. Trained as a teacher, I had automatically engaged in the act of assessing the speakers’ cognitive abilities, without even looking up, sorting the conversationalists—just as I was pushing through garments on the rack—into their respective “groups” for learning purposes: high functioning. average. low functioning.
But, who is the one requiring remedial learning and a special class assignment? I am.
Our spiritual state is not reflected in our intellectual prowess, glibness or verbal wit, nor is it even necessarily expressed when we extend seemingly socially appropriate or gracious words. The quality of our spiritual state is best nurtured through a decisive action when we move our consciousness from the space of our minds into our hearts. And, it is in our hearts we must plant the seeds of innocence, sincerity and respect for all.