Lalish is the holy heartland of the Yazidi people, tucked in the valleys of the Nineveh Province of Iraqi Kurdistan—about 2 hours from Soran and an hour north of Mosul. The nice folks there walk around shoeless, kissin' door frames, walls, and the ground here and there. They never step on, but over, the thresholds of all the temple doorways—and asked that we do the same.
This was inside the Lalish temple. The ‘stached gentleman looking my way works for Baba Sheikh—the spiritual leader of the Yazidi people, akin to the Catholic's Pope. Over tea an hour prior, Baba Sheikh told us (pictures and all) about his 2011 Vatican visit where he met with Pope Benedict XVI.
"Stache" didn't speak much English, but stayed within spittin’ distance—watchfully somber and, I guess, curious about us and the boo-coos of photos I was taking.
The temple was dark and difficult to photograph. So as soon as I spotted the glory of God’s daylight bathing an opening in the wall, I pranced my little ambitious tail over to it and confidently planted not one—but two—bare feet right atop the doorway's threshold; a threshold that, perhaps, not a single soul had tread upon in a thousand years or so.
Smooth, Jessie. Smooth.
About the time the camera met my eye, ‘Stache (and everyone else) started hollering some Kurmanji-something about gettin’ my damnable feet the heck off that holy ground. I flailed in fear like a fish on a hook. What a terrible thing I had done!
After gaining composure, I glanced at “Stache”—certain an arrest was soon to follow. But, I kid you not, he stood there chuckling—apparently amused!
From then on, “Stache" was astoundingly more approachable. He even came over and suggested I get a photo of myself, and offered his services. How very thoughtful! I eagerly handed off my camera...hoping it might atone for my “little” doorway mishap.
I then stood very awkwardly beneath a very old tree among 7-10 very willing Yazidi women for him to photograph us. The women seemed convinced I was either some American movie star or a giant blonde headed creature-lady they needed selfies with for entertainment purposes later when they’d tell family and friends about the blasphemous thing I had done.
I'm still terribly sorry for having stepped on that threshold. But, ya know, maybe seeing me misstep and make a fool of myself was wonderfully ordinary; thus, wonderfully kindred—wonderfully human. Which, perhaps, then made me wonderfully approachable—a thing of grace more effective than my most perfectly penned words or planned presentations.
Maybe we all need a little more brazen honesty about our missteps, for others—and for ourselves (if we’re honest).
Don’t ya think?