Seeing the world in a bathroom mirror

I walk out of the bathroom stall with my two little girls, feeling rumpled and dirty after wrestling them on and off the potty while trying to minimize public-restroom cooties. I’m eager to wash their hands and then get back to the rest of my family.

Standing around the sinks are three beautiful African women in different traditional African dresses. Two have stunningly micro-braided hair and the third has an elegant wrap of fabric around her head. In my brown t-shirt and jeans, I feel underdressed, a dull dove among gorgeous macaws.

I wash my daughters’ hands and steal glances at the women in the mirror as they wash their hands and adjust their dresses. The one wearing a pink blouse and skirt speaks to the other two in the proper almost-British accent.

“Where are you from?” she asks the woman with the elegant headdress.

“I come from Gambia.” This woman’s English also has a pleasingly exotic lilt.

“I am from Zimbabwe,” says the second. “And you?” she asks, turning to first woman.

I also turn, watching her face and eavesdropping unashamedly as I swipe towels from the electric dispenser to dry my little girls’ hands.

“I come from Ghana, ” she says, seemingly eager to speak. Indeed, she was the one who initiated this conversation among strangers. “It was very difficult there. I ran away from war. I ran away two times. And then finally I was able to come here.”

There is a quiet that seemed to hum with understanding, and a gentleness to the faces of the listening women as they nod. One says simply, “I am glad that you are safe.”

As I walk past them out the door, tears spring to my eyes. I feel suddenly ridiculously aware of the privilege of my life.

Never have I had to walk more than a mile to get someplace that I need to go. Never has my drinking water been unsafe. Never have I been away from flushing toilets for more than a day or two. Never have my children missed even one meal. Never have I had to bundle belongings into a blanket and hurry away from my home with my children, hoping I can outrun impending mayhem.

I am so very thankful.

And I also am so very glad that she is safe.


  1. Moments like that jump out at us from nowhere and cause us to view our world with more clarity. Just your ability to see through the cloudiness or your priveledges makes you so much bigger than that which sets you apart from them.

  2. What a beautiful reminder of how privileged we are. Your words painted a colorful image for me this morning. I am glad she is safe, too.

  3. Wow!

  4. So well described! It’s so easy for us to forget to be thankful when, in actuality, we’re probably in the most blessed 1% of the world’s population that has ever existed on this planet. There’s a downside, though, in that we may never be able to realize everyday what we have been graced with while this lady will feel the fullness of providence with every morsel and convenience. It’s like our bounty of physical and emotional blessings numb us to neglect the spiritual, so it’s nice to be reminded by a simple conversation like that.

    “To whom much is given, much is required” — I know that I need to keep that in mind myself. And I am glad she’s safe, as well. And your lovely children, too. 🙂

  5. Beautiful Mary.

  6. Lovely, just lovely.

  7. Wonderful story and wonderful lesson. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow, Mary. Your story gave me goosebumps. What an amazing insight. Thanks for letting us be a part of it too.

  9. Amen, Mary! Thanks for sharing that beautiful story!! The Lord has been kinder than we can possibly understand while on this earth – there’s SO much that we have not experienced that other peoples in this world have!! And SO much that we have experienced (daily food, shelter, clothes, and many, many other comforts!!) that they have NOT! I often think of brothers and sisters that are being persecuted around the globe, yet continue sharing the Gospel for the joy of the next person and the glory of God. And then there’s me, who knows nothing of persecution, yet who’s faith is so small!

    So, where were you to see this “glimpse of the world in a bathroom mirror”??!!

  10. For some reason I had issues leaving comments earlier this morning but this post is amazing, insightful and beautiful…thanks for eavesdropping…and sharing!

  11. i need these reminders…thanks for sharing this moment mary. beautifully written as always.

  12. That was exactly what I needed to read tonight as I sit here trying not to covet what other people have and drool over the things of this world. What a lovely reminder of what is important and where I need to put my focus. The intangibles are often lost in this culture of consumerism in which we live. Thank you for that reminder.

  13. Oh, Mary, once again you gave me goosebumps as I read. I, too, am so glad she’s safe. Thanks for the great reminder of how blessed we are.

  14. Ok, maybe this is my pregnancy hormones…but it made me cry….where WERE you?

  15. It’s startling when you realize how privileged we all truly are. It’s also embarrassing to think of how ungrateful we can get.

    The important thing is to recognize how good we have it and to pay it forward in any way we can.

    Thanks for sharing this experience with us, it has reminded me of how lucky I am.

  16. What a great post. “I am glad that you are safe.” We do take so much for granted. Thanks, Mary!

  17. We all need a perspective check now and then. Thanks for giving me one!

  18. Funny. I can see how that conversation would remind you of your privilege – but reading it filled me with a kind of envy.

  19. Mary, I have followed your blog off an on. I love your words, your faith and love for people. What an amazing moment for you. God is so awesome in His little ways he reminds us of our blessings. I, too, forget often what I have in my life. Even when I am in the midst of Ethiopian traffic or I hear my children’s stories, I still could never understand what they went through. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

  20. Jennigans says:

    Yes, we truely are blessed. It’s good to see the depth of your soul (big smile).


  1. […] for the background on my Mirror post, check out this post Celebrating African […]