Tell the World I Said, “Hello.”

by

I’m fat.

I’m white.

I live in Mississippi.

I’m a single female in her late 30s.

From those few nuggets of information…the world judges me.

They think I’m lazy. I’m pampered. I’m prejudice. And I’m lonely and bitter.

Okay…so maybe I’m a little lonely and bitter…but that’s not my point.

My point is…I may or may not be any of these things…but because of my outward appearance, the world at large thinks I’m all of them.

After college, I worked professionally for about eight years as a newspaper reporter. With that job, I had to call outside the state fairly often to get information from federal agencies or other sources.

Having been born, reared, and educated in Mississippi, this was really the first time in my life that I had to seek information outside my state…that I had to contact the world outside of Mississippi for knowledge.

It was pretty enlightening. I couldn’t believe what people really thought of me because I was from Mississippi…and I couldn’t believe the rude questions they so audaciously asked me, especially since I was calling on a professional matter for information.

  • “Do you guys wear shoes down there?”
  • “You know, something I’ve always wanted to know…do folks in Mississippi have indoor plumbing?”

I always knew the South had its own stereotype, but I was dismayed to think that people actually believed it represented everything about the South.

When I would get questions like those…my first reaction would be to go into my deepest Southern drawl and answer back with something like…”Why, shoooooes….what on earrrrth are these shooooe thangs of which you all are speakin’?” or “We all were so vehry jubilant the dayee we had ahwa ‘inside plumbin’ put in. Now sistah duhsn’t have to go outside to hunt the Sears and Roebuck no more-ah.”

But, instead, I usually just laughed and answered “yes” to both.

I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in a lower-middle class area of Biloxi, where whites and blacks were neighbors and played together and went to school together. I wore shoes, except when I would climb the enormous magnolia tree in my backyard to sit for hours and daydream as I looked out over my neighborhood. (Magnolias don’t have bark…therefore, they have little traction and shoes are a hindrance when climbing.) And I always used the bathroom inside, with honest-to-goodness indoor plumbing…and Charmin toilet paper…never the tool section of the Sears and Roebuck…mostly because of the Charmin, but also because that was my dad’s favorite section.

I’ve stayed in Mississippi because…I love it. And one of the challenges I’ve put before myself with this blog is to show others outside my state that there are Mississippians with intellect, who work to improve how the world views them, and who aren’t mired down by those stereotypical beliefs that the majority of the nation perceives as running rampant through these parts. Mississippi is my home. Though I’m fully aware of its imperfections…I still see its warmth and charm.

But then, again, I’m a fat, single white woman in her 30s. Surely Shelley’s Mississippi can’t possibly be the same Mississippi for someone of an entirely different age, race, and sex…right?

Well…

Last Saturday I met a man named James, a 50-something-year-old African American who is losing his hair…but certainly not his humor.

He came to my home to deliver my brand new Maytag dishwasher. Actually, his co-worker brought the new machine in and took the old one back to the truck for disposal. James’ job was to install the new washer.

“Oh my goodness…would you look at what we have here,” he said after removing the front panel on my old dishwasher. “What have these people gone and done?”

“What’s wrong?” I asked, thinking whatever he had found would cost me money.

“Just look at these wires.”

I did as he said and they looked to me like any tangle of wires. “Oooohhh,” I said as I nodded intently, not wanting to sound stupid.

Seeing the absolute cluelessness in my eyes, James went on to explain that the previous home owners had run the line that should directly plug up to the dishwasher into a dead electrical switch under my sink…presumably to accommodate a non-existent garbage disposal.

“Now, why would someone do that?” he asked, shaking his head.

“I don’t know,” I replied (truer words have never been spoken).

“Well, don’t you worry, Miss Powers, I’ve seen worse. I think I can fix it.”

Relieved that the problem wasn’t going to cost me any more than what I had paid for an installation fee, I smiled and, at James’ instruction, went to cut the main power supply on the house.

James set to work…laying awkwardly on the floor, with half of his body shoved up under my cabinets. His fingers twisted wires and maneuvered fixtures with ease and grace.

“Can I get you a flashlight?” I asked.

“I’d appreciate that.”

I walked down the hall to grab my rechargeable flashlight and, as I made my way back toward the kitchen, I heard James singing softly under his breath.

Grinning, I entered the kitchen. “I heard you singing.”

He smiled broadly. “I love to sing.”

“What kind of music do you enjoy singing the most?”

“Opera.”

Before I had a chance to react to this news, he burst forth into a breath-taking line from some aria that I couldn’t have named if you paid me. He sang in a foreign language…Italian, I think…and his rich baritone voice filled my kitchen all-to-briefly before he stopped and looked at me.

“I was a member of the first multi-racial choir in Jackson when I was in high school in the late ’60s.”

Fascinated, I wanted to go into my reporter mode. I had about a 1,000 questions for this man who was sitting on my kitchen floor wearing a work shirt with his name embroidered upon it. But I restrained myself and only asked one.

“Were you scared?”

“No,” he said matter-of-factly, “because I knew what I was doing. I was so proud…this smiling black face among all those white faces.”

I chuckled.

“I could get lost in opera music,” he said, looking off at nothing in particular. Then he spotted the flashlight in my hand. “But let’s see what we can do about this wiring.”

“Would you like me to hold the light for you?”

“Nah, just hand it here.”

I obeyed.

James adjusted his position to accommodate the angle of the flashlight from where he had braced against the back interior wall of the cabinet. As he readjusted, he hiked up his pants, which were a bit baggy.

“I can’t seem to keep my pants from falling down.”

I just smiled…a little uncomfortable at discussing a strange man’s pants while he was alone with me in my home.

“I’m training for a run,” he said. “I run marathons.”

“Really. How long have you been running?”

“I started running in my 20s…so for about 33 years.”

“Wow. That’s amazing. I imagine that takes a lot of fortitude.”

“Yes, but I enjoy it. I started running after I left the Navy,” he said. “You know? I’ve been to every continent…except the North Pole, the South Pole, and Australia.”

“That’s wonderful. I’ve hardly been out of Mississippi.”

He added, “and I went to school in Virginia.”

“But you came back to Mississippi?” I asked. My meaning wasn’t lost on him.

He stopped turning wires, sat up, and looked at me.

“I love Mississippi,” he said. “Look, at least the folks in Mississippi will tell you up front when they have a problem with you because of your race. I’ve found that others don’t…they just hide it and it comes out in other ways. I’d rather know up front that someone hates me. At least that’s honest.”

He went back to work on the dishwasher as nonchalantly as if he had just told me the time, leaving me to stand in the doorway of my kitchen to reflect on his words. All I could think of was how much I wanted to share my meeting with James at Monkbot. I summoned my courage and asked, “James, I want to ask you something and, if you say no, I’ll understand.”

“Okay.”

“Could I record you singing?”

He started laughing…hard. “That’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever asked me on these deliveries. Why would you want to do that?”

I laughed, too, and explained about my little website where folks from around the world come to read and visit. “I have people from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, New York, California, and even the Philippines come to my site. I know they’d want to hear you sing, but if you’re uncomfortable with that, I understand.”

“Yeah, let me keep it to myself. Not even my co-workers know I can sing.”

My heart broke a little as I nodded.

“But,” he said. “You let everyone know on your website that the next time they pass a truck with delivery men, to not think they’re just a bunch of strong guys…”

I smiled. “Right, because some of those guys might be world-traveling, history-making, singer/electrician/marathon runners.”

“That’s right.” His eyes crinkled.

I told him I understood how he felt and explained that I wanted people outside of Mississippi to know that it’s not filled only with racists and rednecks.

“That’s true,” he said. “Mississippi has a lot of wonderful people.”

And as he finished hooking up my dishwasher, I knew one of those wonderful people was sitting on my kitchen floor.

James stood up and scooted the dishwasher in place under the cabinet. Then he turned the dial on my new machine and it came to life.

I clapped and whooped and thanked him profusely.

“Miss Powers, you’re ready to go and the only thing I’ll ask for is a bottle of that water,” he said as he pointed to some bottled water I had stored under my kitchen sink after Katrina.

“You got it,” I said, and I grabbed four bottles, two for him and two for his man waiting in the truck. “I can’t wait to try out my new machine. Thank you so much.”

He picked up his tools and we both walked outside. When he reached the truck, he put his tools on the seat in the cab and took his water. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

I started to walk back toward the house.

“Oh, and Miss Powers,” James called.

I turned around.

He had stopped halfway into his climb into the cab and was smiling and pointing at me. “Tell the world I said, ‘Hello,'” he said then gave me a quick wink.

I smiled back. “I will, James. They’ll hear about you in the Philippines.”

As I was turning back around, I glimpsed a look of confusion on the co-worker’s face and I had to wonder how James would explain our exchange to the young man.

I walked back in the house and the truck drove off and I was hit with the realization that James and I had a lot in common. We’re both from Mississippi. We’re both judged on our outward appearances, and assumptions are made about both of us. And even with him having faced far more hatred than I ever have, he still loves this place…and loves life…and loves people.

But the lesson James taught me two Saturdays ago reached deeper than not judging someone on appearances. It reached deeper than looking beyond the negative to find the positive in something. It reached deeper than enriching yourself so that you’re not the person people expect you to be because of how you look or where you’re from.

What James taught me was how important it is to share yourself with others. For only then will all those prejudices be squelched…only then will those negative thoughts change to positive ones…only then will you find true enrichment…and only then will someone be truly enriched by you.

Realizing my day’s fortune…I smiled and stepped into the cool of my home…eager to write about my meeting…and eager to find some dishes to wash.

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33 Responses to “Tell the World I Said, “Hello.””

  1. Squeebee Says:

    Shelley, that was a beautiful story! I am so glad you shared it. I think everyone makes snap judgements based on what they see, whether they admit it or not. What a wonderful reminder to really try to see the insides of people rather than the outsides.

  2. rccola Says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful story, Shelly. Thanks so much for sharing it!
    Loved James, loved your writing, ‘n loved your insights.

  3. Laurita Says:

    Thank you Shelley…
    Your wonderful essay reminds me of these amazing words that Anne Frank wrote many years ago:

    “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy…”

    It seems that the key is gratitude.
    Take care, L

  4. Theresa Says:

    Wow, Shelley! This Minnesotan sure read your story with interest. The worst thing anyone thinks about my state is that we huddle in our cabins from November to June, afraid to go out in the subzero blizzard. I also talk to people all over the country and I have been asked many astonishing questions regarding how cold it is in Minnesota (it’s not, actually). Still, Mississippi seems worlds away to me, but I now know it a little better. You should shop this story or at least copyright it somehow. That story belongs in a shiny magazine.

  5. double d Says:

    The only way to break stereotypes is to continually “put yourself out there”. Working for the past 25 years in a white male dominated industry, it would have been easy to give up and go elsewhere. Unfortunately, the work I love to do is in this industry and it’s where I feel I can make a difference. So, I trudge on, like James somewhat, breaking the stereotype of the hard-living Cajun woman who is intellectually difficient and whose sole purpose in life is to cook for her men.

    Shelley, if you think MS’s steretype is bad, try Louisiana on for size…I even take crap from these yay-hoos in Alabama. But, I’m FIERCELY proud of my heritage and the fact that my peeps have been here since before America was America. So, I go out and learn all I can, become educated enough to make a difference with my knowledge, then implement it with fun, kindness and a little joie de vivre.

    I learned alot about judging going through the therapy of my divorce many years ago. It taught me never to think you know someone by their “profile”. Even though that’s my business, I still always take into consideration that even though there are a certain set of behaviors and values that people will follow as a group, there is a point where everyone becomes individualized and may have some experiences and interests that are totally outside their profile.

    Sounds to me like James is pretty comfortable in his own skin. Good for him.

  6. leejolem Says:

    Shelley, I lerved your story and want to meet James. Even though I would have loved to hear his voice his humility was refreshing in this day and age of Donald Trumps and Rosie O’Donnells always wanting their voices heard.

    My kids and hubby laugh at me because I like to talk to people I meet in any setting (repairmen, waiters, cashiers, etc….) Once you get past that initial wall of 1st impression/stereotype you can connect just on a person to person level, and I love that.

    Indiana definitely has its stereotypes too! I’ve lived here all my life and have never shucked corn or fed slop to any pigs. I’ve always lived in suburbia and here’s a big shocker–I’ve never been to the Indy 500!!!!!!! Anyway, we have a reputation of being boring, hicky farmers with no culture. Most people think we have indoor plumbing, but we’re fat and own livestock.

    I do have to agree with James about it being easier to live where people are open about their prejudice. Some Hoosiers are very racist, but hide it in front of their neighbors/coworkers of color–when their backs are turned the jokes and nasty comments come out. I’m not proud of that about Indiana.

  7. ivoryhut Says:

    Hi Shelley. Now you know I’ve been really busy lately, but how could I not come out of the woodwork after a post like this? (Although, for sure, talk of swishing Jack Daniels around for oral hygiene was mighty tempting.)

    I guess my ignorance of stereotypes can be a good thing. The only exposure I’ve had to stereotypes about the South come from Blue Collar TV, and some of the jokes are funny to me only because we make the same jokes about ourselves back home.

    I remember a not-so-recent conversation with a woman who casually mentioned that she meta very nice Filipina who was working as a live-in nanny for a family. Then the woman had a sudden look of horror in her face and started apologizing profusely because it occurred to her that perhaps that was how I came to this country. I thought it was silly of her to worry about that, but she was in such panic at her possible faux pas that I started feeling sorry for her.

    (She finally calmed down when I told her that imagining I could be Mary Poppins was a big compliment. Especially if I could have a singing chimney sweep to sing duets with me.)

    Thank you so much for sharing that enlightening day with us. I would have loved to hear James sing and hear more of his life stories. You experience reminds me of something Larry King said:

    I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.

  8. jenfera Says:

    Hello, James from New England!

    Yep, I’m from New England where we are all snobby, cold (both in temperature and in emotion), godless, left-wing earthy crunchy types who will vote for anyone who’s name starts with Ken and ends with nedy. Do I fit some of these stereotypes? Absolutely. Do I fit all of them? Of course not.

    I have to tell you all though that “hanging out” here has been very good for me. It’s pretty amazing to connect with people from all over, and find all the wonderful things you have in common first, to genuinely like and appreciate wit and wisdom from all over, long before you even realize some of the core differences.

    After I became a regular around here, I went back and read the archives. I remember reading along from the beginning as Shelley revealed so much about herself and I thought to myself, “Oh, I love this Shelley person! She’s so much like me!” She’s about my age, she hates the state of Hollywood hair, and holy crap, she even dressed up like Cyndi Lauper once like I did! And I guess that’s what we tend to use as a barometer a lot: “like me” = good.

    And then I ran across the post where Shelley identified with some characters on TV – that blonde chick on Studio 60, and that Ally McBeal person on Brothers & Sisters. Two characters who I neither liked nor understood. I have to admit, it bothered me. For about a minute. And then I said, wait a second, this is way cool! This is how it should be. I love that I am communicating with this diverse group of people, getting along with people from all over the globe, despite our differences! We can get along! This is great!

    I’ve always laughed along with a certain Dennis Miller line: “I’m not prejudiced. There are plenty of reasons to hate people on an individual basis.” And it may sound like a cold Northerner type of thing to say, (and certainly not in the Monkbot spirit) but the beauty part of it is that the opposite is true. There are plenty of reasons to love people on an individual basis too.

    So, “like me” might be good, but “not like me” can be even better. How better to grow and learn than from people who are not like you?

  9. Holeigh Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this Shelley…it was one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking articles I have read in quite some time. Your writing is beautiful, as always. 🙂

    Michigan stereotype: Just watch Escanaba In Da Moonlight for an apt description…however, that’s UP, I’m LP, but the similarities are certainly there, haha.

  10. Claire Says:

    Shelley, that story just warmed my heart. Thank you.

    Irish stereotypes??? Don’t get me started… 🙂

  11. shrewspeaks Says:

    Great story, Shelley. Stereo types, Snap judgements etc. Funny, I have always found snap judgements and stereo types to be less painful than the judgement of someone close to me. Stereo types are classifications for the ignorant they can be hurtful and very wrong. But I have always been more deeply wounded by those I know who decide they need to change something about me because it doesn’t fit into “their” world. That cuts to the quick. I can deal with the laughter about “what exit?” or big hair jokes, but when someone is judge and jury about me personally…cuts to the quick.

  12. MaryS-NJ Says:

    Shelly, you’re a wonderful writer.

    Hello to you too, James! Keep on singing.

  13. Tim Says:

    Coming from another proud Mississippian, nice post.

  14. leejolem Says:

    Shrew, that’s a good point. The only stereotype that really hurts me is the “fat” one. I’ve fought weight all my life, and I find in this pc society that it is one of the only prejudice that is still fully embraced and not considered “un-pc”. Because of the health risks of obesity people almost view it as immoral to be overweight or have overweight children. (stereotype of mom letting kids play video games and eat McDonald’s all the time whilst stuffing donuts in their mouths).

    **Lee now leaps gracefully like a gazelle off her soapbox**

  15. Sierramaira Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I too am a Mississippi girl who feels the need to break stereotypes about her state. Bravo to you and James!
    (Have you ever seen the “Mississippi, Believe It!” campaign? It’s worth checking out.)

  16. caryl Says:

    I’m a yankee living in Texas! I know about stereotypes. When I first moved to Texas, my husband’s friend introduced us to his family like this: “They’re from New York, but they’re okay.” He wasn’t joking, he was completely serious. Oh well. I just set out to prove that I AM okay.

    What I got from your story is how important it is to talk to people. You never know what interesting things you may learn. Thanks!

  17. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Hey Y’all. I’m Texan, and I happen to have an oil field and cattle in back yard. I ride my horse to work and make sure to take my Stetson off when in church….I do keep my boots on though. For fun I like to listen to country music, I like to two-step and of course I love to rodeo!

    Just kidding. All of that is false. Except I do like to two-step from time to time.

    Truthfully, I hold a lot more stereotypes against my own city than “outsiders” prolly do. And they are MUCH different than what you would assume. My stereotypes are that Dallasites are too vain and materialistic. There are too many 30 thousand dollar millionaires (meaning: in debt up to their eyeballs in order to drive that Mercedes). There is too much cosmetic surgery. Too much pretension. There is too much glitz and flash and not enough substance.

    If someone assumed these things about me b/c I’m from Dallas, they’d be wrong. If they assumed it about half the people I know, they’d be right.

    I hold lots of other stereotypes about other people too. I once had a very bad encounter with a Mexican man…actually it was more than one encounter b/c I worked with him. Now, everytime I’m in the presence of a Mexican man…I get the overwhelming feeling of disgust and fear. Like they are just like that one man was. A disgusting, perverted man. I know my stereotype is un-founded…and it doesn’t spill over onto other Hispanic cultures like Cuban, Spanish, etc. Just Mexican. And just the men. I’m trying to overcome it…and in time I’m sure I will.

    I also stereotype men in general, children, old-people, Southerners, Yankees, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, non-Christians, non-pet owners, parents, etc. Some groups in good ways…some in bad ways.

    My mind is ALWAYS changed on an individual basis. And I KNOW that my stereotypes are stereoptypes and I NEVER let them limit me in getting to know someone.

    P.S. Shrew- I’m like you. It hurts much more to be judged by the people that know you well, than those that don’t.

  18. LindaC Says:

    Great story Shelley. I went to high school in Louisiana and now live in your town after a career in New Jersey and DC. All places have there own “charm”. So where you buy the washer? I may be needing an appliance soon.

  19. Shelley Says:

    I bought it at Home Depot…but get ready to pay a hefty fee for installation ($55).

    I recommend Cowboy Maloney’s when it comes to prices.

  20. ivoryhut Says:

    Shelley, if you lived closer, I would have been able to help you with your toilet and your washer.

    I wouldn’t charge ya either. You may, however, wonder where your “mouthwash” has gone …

    (Yeah, I’m all bark and no bite. What am I talking about, I hardly drink.)

    Oh, and because I’m a nerd (that’s code for lazy), I recommend Froogle for prices. The trick is, find the lowest price online then bring the printout to a local store that guarantees it will beat any price (e.g. Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.). Sometimes, they’ll match the price and then throw in installation.

    Um … and yeah, what Shrew said.

  21. Connie8 Says:

    Shelley

    That post was so cool!

    Oregon checking in here. Yes, I am wearing Birkinstocks, sitting here on this beautiful, sunny (yes, said sunny) day. We still have a lot of prejudice around these parts, although everyone knows it is politically incorrect to let on about it.

    I too am judged by sight. I’m over 60 years old, fat, and disabled. People tend to assume I can’t do anything, don’t know anything, have never been anywhere, and sometimes even ask people I’m with what I would like (like at a restaurant). Sometimes it’s annoying (usually when my psychic energy is low), but sometimes I get the opportunity to explode their myths, and it’s great fun.

    If you see James again, tell him hello for me. He sounds like a great guy.
    I would have loved to hear him sing too.

    Thanks so much for this place. I read it every day, though I rarely post.
    Have a wonderful, thought-provoking day, everyone.

  22. texan Says:

    Bama,

    You gonna ride your pony over to my oil well? If so, bring your six shooter in case we git a possum for vittles!

    Yeehawwww!

    Texan

    ps. Shrew, as always you have a good point! I am a life long southerner, so tell me…is it just a southern thing? I grow so tired of southern=stupid attitudes, and southern women=more stoopid. I know it is born in ignorance, but…it sure wears thin. As a matter of fact, this is the one reason I am thankful for a sense of humor!

  23. rowan Says:

    Shelley, loved this thoughtful and thought-provoking post. James sounds terrific and it was great to meet him. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    Good to see you Connie8!

    Claire – am not going to get started on Scotttish stereotypes either, but just tholught I’d ask my Celtic monkbot sistah if she fancied doing a bit of raiding over the border next weekend. Have run out of the natural-sourced indigo woad face-paint and am not about to go seeking for the appropriate greenery to pulp with my pestle, but I do have a great blue eyeshadow left over from the Seventies which might suffice. Traditional cattle raiding might not be on the agenda, as I just got my grass cut and the herd would go hungry. What about a raid on Harrods instead? Hey…I am hoping this posts, as I’m lying in a remote glen in my damp plaid, texting under the protection of a fallen tree trunk, listening for the clunk of hooves, the clink of muskets and the flash of a sneaky redcoat searching in the gloaming. These internet phones are braw and the boogie. Bama – with your rodeo skills, you could come too and lure our pursuers into a peat bog of doom.

    Rob Roy-wan

  24. double d Says:

    Why, shucks, lil’ ole Texie, dahlin’….you can drive yer Eldorado with the horns ovah to Lower Alabama and we’ll sit on the verandah and have some Mint Julips. That oughtta perk you right up. If not, then we can jump into the cement pond and cool off before the men-folk get off of work.

  25. Soultrain Says:

    Stereotypes?? Here I sit, a Texan in Utah. The only reason I have time to type this little comment is because my husband has 7 other wives doing his laundry, tending his 27 kids and cooking his dinner.

    Great essay, Shelley. Thank you for making me cry; I needed one.

  26. Meg the elder Says:

    I think people grab at stereotype because it creates the illusion of safety. It let’s them “think” they know who they are dealing with, without having to work at really knowing. It’s lazy.
    Really knowing, really listening — takes work and time and heart — it’s tiring sometimes — exhilarating other times — and always the only way to truly be alive. Stereotyping is one more way of deferring truly living. It’s cheap like “Cliff Notes”.

    Stereotyping makes us deaf to the music and blind to the beauty and the dangers. Stereotypes are some of the real Dangers.
    Thanks Shelley — I can almost hear James sing.

  27. Dinah Says:

    Loved your story, Shel.
    Sterotypes have haunted me all my life.
    Born and raised in Texas, I’m in Oregon (You’re not from around here, are you?).
    A Catholic (You worship statues, don’t you?).
    Have dyed hair (One of THOSE women).
    Married the 4th time.(Hmmmm)
    My lifelong best friend is Hispanic (Don’t you know any WHITE girls?).
    I’m overweight (I prefer fluffy)
    and now pushing 70.
    Guess what?
    I’ve now known as “colorful”!!! People want to meet me and socialize with me! Mercy!

  28. brc Says:

    Thanks for sharing Shelley. What an inspiring story… it made me cry. Wish there were more people around like James… and like you.

  29. eastonwest Says:

    Wow Shelley! I rarely get the opportunity to browse around the boards anymore and post very little. I’m glad I checked this one today, your story is so meaningful and thought provoking. Thanks for delivering it in a way that we can all relate, to a certain extent. I’m in O.C. California where there are so many stereotypes, almost everyone can honestly fit into one of them in some way (you all know what they are)! Thanks again for the great story which could easily be submitted to a newspaper for publication.

  30. Hickstyeria Says:

    A wonderful story Shelley and your description of James fairly leapt off the page – so real I feel I know him.

    We all have a talent for something, whatever our personal physique. The key is understanding what we have and making use of it. James has great self-knowledge and wisdom which is what makes him so comfortable in his own skin. He sees singing in that choir as an achievement and knows that the work he does is just that – a job, a means to an end, a way to make a living. It doesn’t matter to him what anyone else sees or thinks they see because he has the secret in the palm of his hand – self esteem.

    Shelley has a wonderful way with words and a talent for communication. I only know her through this blog and even then I only know a small part of who she is. I know only that when I see her photos here she has a wonderful smile and lovely red hair – I’ve always liked red hair yet I don’t possess that colour myself – and that smile, plus her writing, tells me all I need to know. This is someone with conviction, with values, with passion. Size really doesn’t matter!

    E.M. Forster once said ‘Only Connect’ and Shelley does that – with her family, her friends, her blog readers and with James, the opera-loving Maytag man. it takes a special talent to do that. Her beauty lies in who she is, not what she looks like and one day someone special will know that too.

    Thank you for the music James – I hear you and my heart hears you too.

  31. blueberry Says:

    Loved your story, Shelley. Who would have thought your seemingly routine encounter would be so profound? You do have a way with words, I felt like I was sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of…joe!

    Here’s to everyone having their own James moment!

  32. Leroy'sSharon Says:

    Thank you Shelley.

    You have blessed me so much with this story.

  33. PattyP Says:

    Shelley, that’s one of the most interesting, best-written pieces I’ve read in a long time. Very nicely done — you make your point very well.

    As someone born and raised in the South, I have to agree with James and with you that there are plenty of very nice/good people in the South; in fact, I also agree with James, that the people in the South seem to be more honest about their prejudices than might be true in some other parts of the country.

    I also grew up with whites and blacks and never thought twice about the color of someone’s skin — quite an accomplishment considering my elementary school wasn’t integrated until I was in 2nd grade. My mom recently informed me that the whole process would have gone MUCH more smoothly if there hadn’t been a group of northerners who came down to “supervise” things and caused more ill will than they prevented. We were ready; we didn’t need to be prodded like cattle about it. It just emphasized the stereotypes.

    I credit my parents with raising me to truly not let race enter into my assumptions about people. I have plenty of other things I tend to prejudge people by, unfortunately, but race isn’t one of them.

    Anyway, again, that was really a very, very nice piece. Thanks for writing it and sharing James (and your talent) with the world.

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