Gail DeMasi // Tales From the Trenches


June 22  

This is his name: 9WT5-C32D-FHQR.

Maybe, if I had not been so full of myself, I would have asked his actual name. Now all I have is his Census ID. Maybe if I had not been so opinionated about our political and cultural crisis, ala Covid-19, I could have been gentle, kind, and gracious.

He simply came by to verbally collect the Census, as I had failed to return the paper on several occasions. When I went out to the porch to meet him, I intended to tell him to leave. I was not pleasant; indeed, I was uncharacteristically hostile. It was during this little tirade that I noticed him: He was dressed in stained, dirty work clothes—shirt and pants cinched at his little waist, with a big belt. He was short and slight. His face was unshaven and peculiarly misshapen: his mask could not stay on his mouth and nose—rather, it sat askew. He was very gentle, unassuming, and sweetly persistent in trying to get me to answer some questions. I began to cooperate, though my answers were short and sharp, my voice unfriendly and icky. As I continued to stand with him on the porch, my heart started to soften. My eyes looked more deeply at this man in front of me. In a moment, I was overwhelmed with my own harmful, egregious attack on him. My heart now burst in shame and repentance. A watershed crashed open my dammed-up heart, and all I could see was Christ; all I felt was Christ; all I knew was that it was the Lord himself in front of me. Every cell in my body, my mind, my heart, my spirit, my soul was washed in mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace. There was an invisible light shining quite visibly into my inmost being . . . it was otherliness.

I finished the interview with gentle kindness, loving kindness.

But I never did get his name.

Otherliness: Motherliness . .. How often do I miss seeing the other in my children? Often I am amnesiac as I prepare to “Redirect! Remind! Reprimand! Rebuke!” my loved ones, my children, young and old. Or the otherliness of my husband, my love, my friend, my guy.

Otherliness demands a quiet, gentle heart. It is then bathed in the mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace of the invisible; and with that, the other becomes visible.


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