The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: Looking the Other Way?

How Michelle Rodriguez almost got me beat up

2010-10-07 15.26.39

While a thinly veiled attempt to share my star-sighting a few weeks ago while on a trip to New York City, what happened AFTER I bumped into  Michelle Rodriguez is the real story.

It goes a little something like this:

My friend, Kelly, and I were wandering around the West Village and stopped into this corner T-Shirt store.  After trying not to look shocked at the $65/shirt price tags and discovering the sale rack, I looked up and, who did I see, but Michelle Rodriguez.  Now I don't see myself as one who gets star struck all that easily.  I've met famous people before - albeit mostly church folks - but still . . . I was cool when I met Desmond Tutu and John Lewis. These folks where part of social movements and worthy of speechlessness, but movie stars are just people, right?  Well apparently, this boy does get a little swoony at the sight of some.  After all, this was MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ of pilot in Avatar, revolutionary in Machete and fighter Girlfight and yes . . . she was even more stunning in person.  I mean come on, you would have swooned too. 

After going back and forth in my mind about whether I should ask for a picture, I figured, what the heck . . . I went ahead and asked her.  She was very sweet and took a pic with the dorky guy at the NYC T-Shirt Store.  After I took the picture, I went back into the story where Kelly, was at the counter. Apparently the shop owner saw the whole thing go down and while I was outside he said to Kelly, "All people are the same to me."

And then he laid into me, "Why do you want to take a picture with that lady, when - nodding at Kelly - you are with this beautiful woman?"...

After an awkward moment, Kelly and I realized that he thought that we were married and I was being a jerky husband by chasing down other women on the street to have my picture taken with him.  Kelly and I both tried to assure him that we were not married, not even dating, but just friends. He did not believe us AT ALL.  At one point during our pleading with him, he looked right at Kelly and said, "Tell me the truth. You are really not with him?"

Sure, it would have been HYSTERICAL for Kelly to have summoned up some fake tears and broke down saying, "Okay fine, he is my husband and he does this ALL the time!" But seriously, this guy looked like he was ready to kick my ass should it have turned out I had disrepected Kelly in any way.  Thankfully, Kelly chose a strategy of survival by simply paying for her shirts and then we both slowly backed out of the store.

As Kelly and I laughed about the whole situation it because obvious to both of us that this guy was protecting her.  He wanted to let Kelly know that no matter how this a-hole (me) acted, she should be the center of attention, and not some movie star.  I figure he had seen men behaving badly before, he has  daughters that he wants to be treated with respect and/or he was simply a good guy that wants to speak out when he thought someone was being wronged.

Whatever the case, it was very sweet and a reminder of our calling to speak out when we are called. I wonder how many of us pass up opportunities to do the same?

As we know it is far to easy to look the other way, avoid getting involved or otherwise protect our little part of the world that we perceive as stable, familiar and under our control.  Sometimes we must rock our own worlds by trying to be a voice of justice and healing in the face of injustice and pain.  If we fail to speak out we allow physical and emotional abuse to continue, we allow unhealthy and toxic systems to profit and we ultimately allow our communities to erode into isolated groupings of people where personal safety and survival are more important that the common good.  In short, when we look the other way, as safe as it may make us feel, we all suffer.

So the question for each of us is, "What will we no longer turn away from?"

Please share.

On a side note, when I daughter's teacher said to her, "I see that your daddy meet a movie star this week in New York"  She said with excitement in her voice, "Yeah, Elmo!" [Elmo and I in Times Square]

[Taken with permission from Bruce Reyes-Chow's Blog. Originally posted Oct. 22, 2010]