She walked the power walk that only women who have mastered sloped pavement and four-inch heels can walk. Black cigarette pants and a blazer the hottest shade of hot pink. Her long hair was catching the sunlight and the wind all at once.
She was all the things I am not and she was glorious.
I marveled at this beautiful stranger marching up the sidewalk. We made eye contact and I announced, “You look amazing.”
She didn’t even pause before she was responding, “Thanks, I love your hair.”
Neither of us slowed our pace. The whole exchange took less than 30 seconds.
This is not unusual in my world. I do this at least a dozen times every week. It started years ago as a response to a requirement to do “street evangelism.”
I was living in New Orleans and working with a missions organization gutting houses after Hurricane Katrina. When Mardi Gras rolled around, the volunteers came to evangelize rather than tear out moldy drywall. Every evening that week groups of two and three college kids walked the streets of the French Quarter asking drunk strangers if they “knew Jesus.”
I was 21 and adorably naïve, but even I couldn’t get behind this. It didn’t feel authentic.
Instead I just chitchatted with anyone and everyone. I drew maps of the French Quarter on napkins and offered tips for cheap restaurants and listened to a whole lot of drunk stories.
Then, on the last day, I saw this stunning woman on the ferry. Her hair belonged in a shampoo commercial. The words were tumbling out before I could stop them, “This is weird, but your hair is gorgeous. More people should be telling you this.”
She grinned and told me she inherited her great hair from her mother in Venezuela. We spent the rest of the ride talking.
That single awkward moment on the ferry was the most spiritual part of my whole week. It wasn’t grand or dramatic. It didn’t bring anyone to Jesus. And maybe the shampoo commercial Venezuelan woman didn’t ever think about it again. But for me it was a beacon—a reminder to see people.
That day I decided I would let more women know the kind and quirky things I think about them.
It takes a brave kind of insanity to walk around the world grinning at strangers and telling them their green pants are cool and their big hair is stunning and that they have the kindest smile you have ever seen. But why the heck not?
Forget everything you watch on sitcoms. Forget the insecurity of junior high. This idea that women are jealous and unnecessarily competitive is done. We are done with that. There is room for all of us.