Shillong’s main market is a maze of small alleys interlaced on a hillside in the middle of town. Even if there were no shoppers, it would take you 10-15 minutes to walk from side to side, corner to corner. Anything you might be interested in is there; bulk grains, bamboo carpets, fishing equipment, spices, cloth, shoes, and a myriad of items with names defying description. There is a strange logic and pattern to it all. Granted it is not readily apparent, neither is Safeway to the uniformed!
Yesterday we cruised the market for hours, looking for items with somebody’s name on it. We cruised up on alley and then another. We asked directions; local Khasi women and my Dad chatting up a storm with a resulting verbal map full of twists and turns. The finds were great and negotiated prices amazing. What I will remember most is the beautiful faces with smiles and eye contact that penetrate even the most harden heart.
As much as I tried to walk along naturally, it just was not going to happen. Two items are beyond hiding. First, I stand a good foot above the average person. In many cases, this difference is closer to two feet! Second, I have strictly Caucasian features. There are many in the market that have lighter skin, however, they carry a beautiful combination of tribes and cultures going back centuries. I knew as I walked that I was a stranger in a beautiful land.
Often I fall into the trap of believing I am the same as the world around me. Most of the time, the differences are not readily apparent. I look and act the same as those around me. However, similar to the bazaar, there is at least one person that follows every step. God knows exactly where you and I are, what we are doing, thinking, anticipating, and worrying about. God knows and responds to each move with compassionate grace and acceptance.
“Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make; he’s aware of every step you take.” (Proverbs 5.21)