Wandering through a thrift shop, I am standing before a small ocean of clear glass bowls. All sizes, several shapes (most, admittedly, are round), old and new, in various states of cleanliness.
Now, I am not in the market for any more glass bowls. I am already amply supplied with a variety of glass bowls for all occasions. In fact, my kitchen cabinet would probably cheer if I selected a few to donate, which I have no plans to do.
But I do like a clear glass dish. I like to bake in it and serve in it and eat and drink from it and store leftovers in it. There’s something pure and honest about clear glass kitchenware.
So here I am, looking at all these clear glass bowls that people have donated to this thrift store, which, by the way, is a Really Good Thing to Do with your Excess Bowls and other things. This particular thrift store is run by an all-volunteer staff; the money raised goes to a feeding program for poor and homeless people. It’s a Christian organization that I think Jesus himself would approve of.
Most of these bowls are fifty cents, or a quarter if they’re tiny or imperfect. My eye goes to pretty little cut glass number, maybe a pint and a half – perfect for the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving Dinner. I pick it up and glance at the sticker on the bottom. $2.00. What?
The only thing different about this bowl? It’s prettier than most. But does that really make it more valuable? It must, because someone will pay two dollars for a fifty-cent bowl because it’s pretty. Or an extra ten thousand dollars for a car because it’s the spiffy, sporty-looking model. Or a ridiculous amount for clothes, far over what it would take to meet a need, for the clothes that look “just right.” The value of a thing increases proportionately with the perception of its attractiveness.
Unfortunately, we do that with people, too, don’t we? I disadmire that about us as a species, and I say “us,” because I do it, too. I remember a few years ago, hearing on the news about a little girl who had been kidnapped and murdered. And the Facebook chorus rang out, “…but she was such a Beautiful Little Girl!” as if somehow her beauty added extra pain to the horribleness of what had happened to her, as if beautiful people shouldn’t have to suffer. Personally, I suspect that her mother was no more or less grief-stricken than the mother of any other child who met such a brutal end. Even the ones whose genes hadn’t been especially kind to them.
Think for a moment about little Jon Benet Ramsey. I would never minimize what happened to her. She met an unthinkably terrible end, and someone got away with murder, but honestly, would we still be so taken with her case, now twenty years old, if she hadn’t been such a Beautiful Little Girl? Everyone recognizes her name, but what about Amber Hagerman, Baby Belle, April Pennington, Nadine Lockwood, Sofia Silva, Ashley LaShay Jones, and April Lacy? I had to look up the names of the other seven young girls who died at the hand of another person in the U.S. in 1996.
And that makes me ashamed. For all of us.