My 'Miss America'

 I don't normally make a big deal about it and so most folks don't realize that I am married to a 'Miss America'. For several years into our marriage, I didn't even know myself. I guess I should have: after all, she is the most beautiful person I've ever met. In fact, throughout my married life—right up to this moment—I have never even felt close to being worthy of her.
   It wasn't until we got to Taiwan and moved into the little Hakka village of Hsi Hu, that she became 'Miss America'. Surprisingly, Sharilyn repeatedly asks me not to share her 'achievement' with others. I think what rubs the wrong way is the fact that it was our garbage man in Hsi Hu who gave her the title. 
   Mr. Lyou never did learn her real name. The first day he met her, he was standing waist-deep in the contents of the garbage truck, with clothes that looked quite like his surroundings and a pair of yellow plastic boots that were pitifully trying to keep his feet clean. The first thing he said to Sharilyn, as she handed up her pail of trash, was: "Mei-guo Syau-jye, ni hao"—"Miss America, how are you?" 

   From that day on, the title stuck. 

   She was a little put off by the familiarity. That evening at the dinner table, she told the family about her new 'title' and we all had a good laugh. Mr. Lyou was an older gentleman. The entire Lyou family dealt trash of one kind or another—garbage collecting, recycling, salvage, and junk-yard sales—but that didn't stop them from being one of the most genial and influential families in the community. We all concluded at the dinner table that night that Garbageman Lyou was just being genial. "I think it would be better if he just called me Mrs. Schorr, don't you?" Sharilyn pleaded. We all agreed, but that wasn't about to happen soon. 
   Ours was a backward little agrarian village, to say the least: the trash-truck came by twice a week, playing a jingle that was more reminiscent of ice cream than garbage. And the residents had to carry their trash out to the truck and hand it up to the waist-deep man. A personal encounter over the garbage was, thus, unavoidable. 
   A few days later, after the first incident, Mr. Lyou surprised Sharilyn with a question: "Hey! Miss America! Do they have trash where you come from?" 
   This time, Sharilyn couldn't help laughing. "Yes, in America too," she smiled. Mr. Lyou pondered that for a moment: his preconceptions of the great western nation had just dropped a few notches. "You don't say!"  Mr. Lyou had never been to school a day in his life. From dawn to dusk his world was 'disposal'. 
   On one particularly taxing day, with the challenges of living in Hsi Hu wearing her down, Sharilyn was in a terrible mood. I'm sure the Hsi Hu trash system was part of the problem. She trudged out to the trash truck with a particularly glum face, and Mr. Lyou caught it right away: 

"Ah! Miss America! Your heart is heavy today!" 

   Instantly the humor of the scene brought a smile to her face: this guy was actually ready to counsel her from the garbage truck! 
   All through our time there in the Hakka country, Sharilyn was 'Miss America' to a number of people. 
   I was a little surprised to discover that I was 'Mr. America'. I learned that one day when I brought my Skil-saw into the San Yi hardware store to be repaired. Mr. Chang took one look at it and said: "Well, can't fix it here; I'll have to send it up to the city." He took out an order form and began filling it out. 
   I was anxious to give him my name and address correctly, and so I started explaining each character of my Chinese name to him: "It's 'Su', as in the poet Su Shih, and then Wei-min...etc", and then I started to give him my address. 
   But Mr. Chang just waved it all off. "I know where you live," he answered disinterestedly, "and I don't need your name."  
   Oh really? Well...this was my Skilsaw, after all! I did want it to come back! I watched aghast as he wrote just three simple characters into the space for the name 美國先生—'Mr. America'—and then just left the address blank.
   We were the only Americans for forty miles around at least. No one needed our name or address. To all of them, we were just Mr. and Mrs. America!
   All through our time in Asia, we were labeled and judged by the nation to which we belonged.  It would be easy to get incensed by such treatment. After all, isn't that some kind of prejudice? Perhaps. But we eventually learned that it was harmless enough, and understandable too, in a way. After all, to the people in our immediate setting, we were America! The only America they would ever see.
   Did you know, dear Christian, that you too live under such a perception? Yes: watched and scrutinized by a world that knows you best for the Kingdom to which you belong! 
   That must be the reason why Scripture calls us "ambassadors". "We are ambassadors for Christ," Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, "as though God were making His appeal through us...'be reconciled to God'."  2 Cor 5:20 What an honor and a privilege that is! Don't you agree? 
   And...what a humbling responsibility as well! There are some, in your immediate setting, who may never see the Kingdom of Christ, except for what they see in you! So...take this calling seriously, dear ones! Cherish the name you bear, and the privilege of being an honor to your King! 

Love diving into the depths of John with you! 

See you there!                                        RAS

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