The set of her jaw stopped me. Peering closely at her picture, I noticed that her barefoot stride also showed determination to get to her destination.
Bands of bright green cloth spiraled snugly around her head. Not a strand of hair leaked out.
She had on a flowered cotton dress. I liked it until I saw what was missing. The center back seam was creased for a zipper—a 22-inch one, my sewing eye sized. But no zipper had been sewn in. What audacity!
Who in the world would wear a dress without a zipper? Not me! Oh, no, I took pride in my zippers, carefully selecting the right color for every dress I made. I had even gone so far as to make a perfect match with Rit dye. Recently, I had started saving zippers from throwaways. Reusing a zipper was fine, but not using one was absolutely—without excuse—totally unacceptable.
Who would leave her dress wide open from the neckline to way below the waist? Who would expose herself like that in public? And look! No underwear! What kind of woman would do such a thing?
Repelled, I shut the magazine. A score of years passed before, connecting the dots, I could finish that picture.
In an article about a church’s missions work, I read the reprint of an old appeal for clothes donations that would be sent to Haiti. The last sentence admonished: “Do not remove the buttons or zippers.”
Then I knew what kind of woman she was. Dirt poor. Desperate. Destitute. Dependent. Doing the best she could with what she had.
Sadly, I cannot say that experience cured me of a critical spirit. But I can say that it is still a good reminder to heed Jesus’ advice, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 NASB).
There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.
(James Truslow Adams, 1878-1949)