Monday, June 23, 2008

Of Tomatoes and People

This year we planted our garden so extremely early (like barely done snowing early) that we had ripe tomatoes on June 10. Not very many, mind you, but delicious little red tomatoes regardless. I picked the few that were ready the other day and something about those little tomatoes taught me a lesson.

The first tomato I reached for was luscious, red and ripe. It looked like if you squeezed it too hard that the yummy interior would just pop right into your mouth all by itself! The other one that I picked was barely "red" around the body of it, definitely just a little pink at the top by the stem. I felt I was probably rushing it a little but just couldn't withstand the temptation.

Rather than save the best for last as I am normally wont to do, I popped that little red guy right in my mouth when "pthew, yack, spit, pthew". . . I had to spit it out! I wanted to wipe off my tongue right then and there! Even though the outside had looked so scrumpdillyiscious, the inside was nothing but brownish and green something. Don't really care to know what that something was, but it was definitely NOT what my taste buds were set on! The only one left was the little guy that wasn't even hardly past pink yet. When I ate that one it was absolutely like enjoying a warm summer breeze! Does anything taste more like summer than a good home-grown tomato? I don't think so. . . unless it is corn on the cob!

The more I thought about those tomatoes, the more I realized they were like people. So often in this world we are cultured and trained by society to believe that what is seen at first glance is a measure of the person rather than taking the time to look more deeply into the depths to be had in each individual.

Take for instance two elderly sisters that I was acquainted with, Dolores and Sandra (Sandra because I honestly can't remember her name). They were roughly the same age, however, Sandra looked a good 10-15 years younger. When I would see Sandra she was always groomed to perfection, with nails and hair courtesy of the latest salon, clothes just so and she literally reeked of money - expensive perfumes followed her like a cloud. Dolores, on the other hand, well, her hair was obviously courtesy of Miss Clairol's home visit, her fingernails were those of an earth-lover. Her clothes were often stained with whatever project she was working on and seldom matched. Her one concession to vanity was a slash of red lipstick, usually applied with generosity and little thought to the borders of her smile (often times passing the edge of her smile entirely).

Only one time in all the years that I observed Sandra did I see her smile. That was when she was involved in a juicy discussion with group of ladies about some marital issues that someone was having. When I would speak to her, she only acknowledged me with a slight nod of her head, if at all. Dolores on the other hand could barely finish greeting you with effusive happy hello's before she would be greeting someone else who walked by. Dolores was often prone to grabbing your hand or arm to further express her gladness at seeing you while looking straight into your eyes and saying "Have a good day, honey! Isn't it beautiful?". . . this being whether it was 102 degrees in the shade or not. Her hands on yours felt like a man's. They were rough, cut up and weathered to a dark brown. They were the hands of a working woman who was not accustomed to pampering of any sort.

I never met Sandra's husband. Word has it that he made a lot of money during his years, multiplying that which made him a "good catch" to start with. Dolores's husband, on the other hand. . . well, some said he was an alcoholic. I'm not sure about that. Dolores and her husband toiled on their farm together every day. When they would come to town it would often be right beside each other, or if not, the one that came to town was always in a hurry to "get back home to get such and such done". In the later years of Dolores's life, she had a massive stroke. Her husband often would come by on his way to the nursing home. He would get all misty eyed and sort of half-happy, half-sad when he spoke of her. He would mention taking her some of her favorite foods in to her because "She just won't eat! She's getting too skinny!" (she had always been a rather generously proportioned woman). Finally, upon her death, it took him months and months to lose that devastated expression that he wore like a cloak of grief. You didn't have to know him well to know that he had loved her more than himself.

It struck me that when I first met them, I had thought that Sandra was the more "successful" sister. By the standards of the world, probably so. I don't think Dolores had much to her name when she died. Her husband would not have been considered by many to be the man of their dreams, but he loved her. She was never well-groomed and was usually loud and boisterous in her ways. But her laugh. Oh, her laugh! It rang off the walls and whether you had a clue what she was talking about, you couldn't help but find yourself smiling as well!

Maybe often times, we judge people like we do fruit. We knock on the melons, we see if the bananas are overly ripe. We go for the fruit with the least bruises and faulty spots. But think about it! Sometimes the strawberries that are just on the verge of going bad are the sweetest. You have to cut around the bad spots, but they make the BEST treat on ice cream! Isn't that the way we treat people sometimes? Just because someone doesn't LOOK good to us, we often turn our heads or simply just don't acknowledge their presence. It is a researched fact that we as humans are drawn to outward beauty and symmetrical features. We are repulsed by that which we find "different".

I hope that God doesn't judge me the way I have His other children. I hope He looks past all this nonsense on the outside to the person I am in my dreams. I pray that He lets me see with X-ray vision through to the souls of those that He loves. After all, we are ALL His children, are we not?


The Savage said...

Thank God he doesn't look on the outward appearance like we do. Great post & good reminder!

Anonymous said...

What a great post (the tomato comparison was especially effective on a garden fanatic =] )! This reminded me of something else I have noticed about the elderly. Having lived a long time, they are mostly set in their ways. Those who have spent their lives trying to become more like Christ radiate His light and life-they are so sweet and pleasant to be around. Those who have lived it for themselves have an entirely different countenance. Things like that become more apparent with added years.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Ellen (Carolina Momma) said...

What a great post! Love the blog.

Jendi said...

I enjoyed your story and analogy.
A great reminder to me.