Why I Welcomed the Man in the Turban

[My wife is a woman of color. Even though we live in California, and in a relatively progressive part of the state, racism and bigotry are still part of life for us to witness and for her to endure. So I present this archived post as a post-election reminder about welcoming everyone.]

The elderly gentleman stood next to a pickup truck as I pulled into my space in the courthouse parking lot. He and the truck looked like they belonged to each other. Faded paint and door dings, unpressed clothes and a slightly threadbare turban.

A younger man – not really young, but close to my own age – stood at the open driver’s door. He shared the older man’s skin color, but had no turban. As I walked up I saw he was tearing off the parking permit portion of the juror summons to lay it on the dashboard.

“Namaste,” I bowed my head to the older man. “Sat sri akaal.”

His eyes widened a bit as he turned to me and returned my bow. “Sat sri akaal.”

The younger man said, “He has jury duty, but he doesn’t speak much English.”

“You can explain that to the Jury Commissioner when you go inside. Just take the main steps and the security people will direct you to the right office.”

The older man stared at us as his friend said his thanks, and then he added his own. “Thank you, boss.” Another bow.

I bowed in return and went inside to my desk.

How odd, I thought, to be summoned by your adopted government to do something unheard of in most of the world: a judge turns a legal case over to you for decision. No training or experience required.

As the morning wore on I wondered how my friend had fared. Walking into the jury office, I asked them about the elderly man in the turban. It turned out that all the people summoned for jury duty that morning had been sent home, as jury selection for trial that week had finished late the afternoon before.

I was a little disappointed. Seeing him again was tugging at my heart. But he was gone.

Summoned for a Purpose

Abraham received a summons as well. God said to go to a strange land and make it his home. “My father was a wandering Aramean,” the Jews were taught to say about him. (Deuteronomy 26:5.) Jesus wandered too. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58.)

Yet we are promised a home with our Father in heaven, one where we find our rest, where we cease our wandering forever:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3.)

This too is unheard of: God prepares the place, God brings us into his rest, God does it all for us. Whether you wear a turban, a head scarf, cut-off shorts, or anything else, God has a place for you.

We receive the summons and we arrive. In fact, receiving the summons is arriving.

Enter your Father’s courts. No training or experience needed.


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5 Responses to Why I Welcomed the Man in the Turban

  1. Laura Droege says:

    I love this story, Tim! But what does “sat sri akaal” mean? Most of the immigrants in my ESL classes were Korean or South American, and while I can recall a few students who wore headscarves, I don’t remember any who wore turbans.

    • Laura Droege says:

      Or i could just google the meaning, and wind up finding out about the Sikh religion, the language, and the geography of India. Cool. 🙂

      • Tim says:

        Ha! As you saw, it roughly translates into “God is true.” When I first learned this form an older Sikh man, I told him, “What a great saying. I worship the one true God!” I think the phrase Sat Sri Akaal is a great way to express God being always and eternally the Truth.

  2. Muff Potter says:

    Gotta chime in with Laura. Great story Tim! I think it’s what Lincoln was driving at when he wrote:
    With malice toward none, with charity for all Perfection? No. But with each small act of bridge-building and kindness, we restrain the worst in us and promote a better world in the here and now.

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