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Friday, April 29, 2011

Cotton Candy Woman and Pride

by Saint Mark (bio)

As I entered the bus the other day, an obnoxious, ugly woman blocked my way. She sat next to a cart full of groceries which obstructed the isle. I dodged her cart and got a closer look at this woman: she had unwashed hair the color of rotten oranges and soot. She was obese. She was missing teeth and the ones she did still have were misshapen and popped-out of her mouth like a pop-up book when she talked. She liked to talk so that everyone in the bus could hear how she loved cotton candy. I had earphones on and I could still clearly understand each syllable which plunked off her teeth on their way out of her mouth and to my ears. As you guessed, I sat away from this woman, near the back of the bus.

At the next stop, a man in a wheelchair entered and needed the area where the aforementioned woman sat. She moved herself and her cart to the seat right in front of mine. Her odor of the sweaty outdoors and dust wafted into my nostrils as I continued to listen to General Conference on my iPod. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was speaking. His talk just happened to be on the topic of pride.

When the "hard to look at" woman (as the Japanese say) sat down, she asked the man across the isle if he liked cotton candy or had ever used the cotton candy body spray. In my mind, a thought popped in that I should respond to this woman's question and start a conversation with her. However, I volleyed the thought out of mind like a ping pong ball just as soon as it registered. I found this woman very unappealing and did not have a desire to interact with her.

Yet, as I silently compared myself to this woman and rejected her, the words of President Uchtdorf washed over my mind: "At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with 'Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,' it always seems to end with 'Therefore, I am better than you.'. . . This sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. They count these blessings as evidence of being 'chosen,' 'superior,' or 'more righteous' than others. This is the sin of 'Thank God I am more special than you.'" Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Pride and the Priesthood," Ensign, Novermber 2010.

From a sermon given over six months ago, an Apostle of Jesus Christ spoke directly to me on a bus at that very moment. His words pierced my proud heart. As President Uchtdorf went on to describe the sin of pride, I began to internalize his message and recognize my own pride in how I unrighteously judged this woman. I repented on that bus and realized that though this woman was not appealing by the world's standards, she was still a daughter of God. Beneath the superficial and hygenic challenges she faced, she was still a soul of great worth and beauty to God. Her soul was eternal and her friendly manner and willingness to talk to others evinced her good heart and intentions. She did not deserve my condemnation or apathy. She deserved my respect and kindness.

Although the question she posed about cotton candy body spray had faded in the stale air of the bus, I took off my earphones and struck up a conversation with her. She readily responded and we had a positive conversation until her bus stop only a few minutes later. She asked me my name and kindly said goodbye to me by name as she exited the bus.

As you can tell, I have a long way to go before I fully cast off my pride but I was grateful to God for this short moment to be tested, to fail, to be humbled, and to see another as God sees them.

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