Our mothers told us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Jesus gave us two primary commands: love God and love others.
The Golden Rule instructs us to treat others as we would want to be treated.
My husband and I have talked to our daughters about how kindness is more important than being smart, pretty, wealthy, or famous. Still, not all grownups have gotten the message.
One weekend, my daughters and I were picking up a few things at an upscale grocery store where we don’t usually shop, and we stopped near the frozen food aisle to nibble some pizza samples a woman was handing out. The woman was in her 60s or early 70s and was kind to us, offering my 8-year-old a second slice of pizza.
I had my daughters sit on a nearby bench to eat so we wouldn’t leave a trail of pizza sauce through the store. We watched as other customers came and went. At one point, a nicely dressed couple stopped by the pizza stand. They tried some pizza, and the man said to the woman, “That’s good pizza. You want to buy some?” They soon walked on to the deli counter.
The lady handing out pizza then leaned toward me and stated in a hissing whisper, “Why do people try to look like clowns?”
“What?” I said, busy wiping sauce off my 5-year-old’s face. At first, I thought the woman said “clones” and was making a Star Wars reference. I live in a house full of Star Wars fans, so I hear a lot of those references.
“You’re pretty. You look normal,” the woman continued, then gestured toward the couple that had just walked away. “I don’t understand why people wear all that makeup. That woman had bright purple lipstick. She looked like a clown. I don’t know why people do that, or why they get things like tattoos. When I was young, we made ourselves look nice. We didn’t do that.”
I was surprised by the employee’s boldness. She was ranting to a complete stranger about another complete stranger, and she was confident I would take her side. I never noticed the woman’s lipstick. If I had noticed, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. We’ve all worn lipstick colors we regret. What’s more, the pizza lady was white and the lipstick-wearer was African American, which infused the situation with a layer of complexity. I don’t know what the employee’s true motives were for criticizing her customer.
“To each his own when it comes to lipstick, I guess,” I said, shrugging and directing my daughters to throw their cheesy, saucey napkins in the trash can. I started herding the girls toward the checkout line.
The pizza lady was not ready to let us go. “It’s a different world today,” she insisted. “I don’t know why people want to look like that.”
“It will be okay,” I said. “Have a nice day.”
I hurriedly dragged my daughters up the cereal aisle and over to the checkout counter, not wanting to give the woman an audience any longer. I have little patience for self-righteous rants, especially about something as trivial as lipstick.
During the drive home, my oldest daughter spoke up from the back seat. “Mom, what was that lady at the pizza table talking to you about?”
“She was criticizing a woman’s lipstick,” I said. “She thought another customer’s bright purple lipstick looked bad.”
“That was mean,” my daughter said without missing a beat.
She gets it, thank goodness. Kindness is important. Really important. In a world where it seems everyone likes to take a public position on every issue and shoot arrows of judgment at anyone who is different, we need to pause and remember the Golden Rule. If it’s not productive or helpful, don’t say it. Just be kind to each other, okay? And if you like the lipstick color, wear it with confidence.
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