Posting provides an opportunity for experiences that lead you to learn. It can be tempting to focus on what we perceive a new location or culture lacks - to impose our preference. If you look for flaws you will almost certainly find them - focus on them and soon you will see little else.
Lying alone on a Malaysian massage therapist's table in a robe and head towel taught me much about looking for flaws.
Sitting still is not easy for me and so our decision to make regular visits to the massage therapist was all about spending quiet time together. Hour-long sessions tested my fidget limit!
Over eighteen months, the attentive salon manager took great interest in us. Each visit included questions about our family, observation that we appeared to be great friends and commenting that this was a rare quality in a modern relationship. An appointment did not pass without some question or compliment in this regard.
We learned much about Miss *Lee during this process. She had not had an opportunity to marry, had no children, was religiously devoted, and her work was her life. She was very good at what she did, ensuring that every experience in her business was pleasant and relaxing.
Miss Lee's suggestion that I return on my own for a facial was politely declined - the fidget factor, remember? As time passed and the list of excuses exhausted, I relented and made an appointment.
Returning one steamy morning I put on the spa style robe, tied back my hair, and lay quietly in the cool, candlelit room with music and aromatherapy smoothing away the heat of the tropics. Miss Lee began with a transformational scalp massage and then pulled out the magnifying light to assess my skin before beginning the facial.
Intimately close, she breathed these whispered words into my ear:
"You see, God is fair. I do not have the husband or children, but here you have these flaws in your complexion, you have hairs on your face. I will shave them for you!"
I could not run. I could barely rise from the position I was in. Lying still never took so much self-restraint. Politely declining her increasingly insistent offers to shave my face, I remained in place while she applied various potions designed to make me more beautiful. Inwardly I tried to make sense of what I was experiencing, and a possible means of escape should the need arise!
Why would she whisper such thoughts in a vulnerable moment? My flaws were already well known to me. Boiling down the previous month's interactions brought me to one possible understanding: Miss Lee needed to justify why another's life included things she desperately wanted and felt she lacked - finding a flaw made the world right again.
Rejecting a 'final offer' to shave my face I dressed and left her salon, our formerly friendly business association quite changed. I retained a new resolve:
to seek out what is good in people and places - choose to allow flaws (or differences) to simply exist. Celebrate other's good fortune, and focus on virtues.