Today is my birthday. Riding on the Cardinal train to Chicago, I am presented with a gift from the Universe named Frank. A self-proclaimed redneck from Kentucky, Frank comes wrapped in overalls and a black t-shirt with a cross on it that says, “This T-shirt Is Illegal In 51 Countries.” He has a nearly-shaved head, a smattering of bad tattoos and a southern drawl that is like gravel from years of smoking.
When my gift places himself in the seat behind me, he is sober, I assume. His language makes me cringe–not because it is composed of the f-word dotted with a few nouns and prepositions, but as a result of the inherent intolerance which comprises the message. Frank has a problem with our “nigger president,” although he does admit to never actually hearing him speak. He is also very agitated by the “nigger conductor,” who wouldn’t allow him to get off the train for a cigarette one minute before we were set to leave the station. According to Frank, the problem is, “these damn niggers get a little bit of power and it goes to their heads.”
You can imagine why I am struggling with judgement.
As the journey continues, Frank discovers the bar in the café car…bless his soul (insert southern drawl). The combination of Frank and alcohol doesn’t get any prettier. His saint-like seat-mate named Joel, an ex-army dude with a green Mohawk, patiently listens to this inebriated hatred. He acts nonchalant when Frank pulls out two knives and proudly shows them to his new friend, offering that he just might slit the throat of that uppity, nigger conductor. After a discussion about drugs, Joel excuses himself to get something to eat, and Frank sits behind me chewing tobacco and spitting on the carpeted floor of the train.
I realize where I am just then—in that space of judgement, where I have trained myself not to venture. I pray to be filled with Spirit, so that I can see Frank as the beautiful soul that he is. I hold him in that place in my heart, that soul-space of true perfection, and THANKS BE TO GOD, he falls asleep. This allows me to conk out as well, only to awaken to a stern, male voice saying, “Sir, I need you to step off the train with me for a minute so we can have a talk.” When I open my eyes, two large police officers from White Sulphur Springs, WV are hovering over Frank, already beginning to collect his red sleeping bag and dingy back-pack.
On my 47th birthday, I am sure of these things. First, judgement feels icky. It brings our frequency down to a level that pulls us out of soul-space and into ego. Healing occurs only when we see the divine in others. And finally, the more you grow in faith, the more you will be tested–but if you pass, God will reward you. Bye-bye, Frank! I send you love and wish only the best for you in your jail cell.
Much love and many blessings!