A Role Reversal? by Paula Rose Michelson

Authors Observation and Reflective Questions

Many wish their lot was different. Some might admit that they fantasized about changing places with someone else. Stories abound where less deserving individuals are lauded, and those who do deserve praise are passed over. Such it seems is Naomi’s and perhaps your lot. This posting shows how quickly the individual who was seen as a menial can become a person that others will chose to favor.

  • What do you wish would change?

  • How would your situation be different?

  • How would the changes you wished for change you?

The Text

                The next morning, Naomi was in the vestibule dusting the sideboard when Mr. Ralph Martinez, the attorney, and Padre Paul, the priest, greeted each other while standing at the threshold to the door. As she walked toward the door, she watched the play of their shadows through the opaque glass and heard ever nuance of their dialogue because the transom was open.
                “Why in this day of modern conveniences does La Señora still keep with the old ways?” she heard the attorney mutter. “Still no doorbell.”
                “One should not change anything that still works. Better a caring heart and an offering to Our Blessed Mother Church.”
                Since she had spoken with each of them, Naomi knew they were aware of the old woman’s condition. Over her years in the casa, she had heard a lot about these men and assumed that each hoped the lady would select him to manage her estate since she was, obviously, unable to do so for herself. Others had informed her that each of them had tried to curry favor with La Señora and the general population of El Barrio, and each had worked hard to acquire a manner of meekness. From observing them when they visited Tía, she knew that each valued his own wisdom, each believed that he alone should manage the old woman’s funds.
                Perhaps, she mused, the attorney has decided that everyone needs his services in the end, even those who fear God. And the priest, no doubt, he believes his services at the end of one’s life are even more important than those of a lawyer. She could almost hear them thinking, Whom else could she trust but me? She was aware that her musing was not appropriate, so she took a deep breath and pulled the door open. Nodding a humble greeting, she gestured for them to enter. As she did, she reminded herself that they considered her little more than a necessary nuisance and knew that never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined how her presence in Tía’s house was about to change all their plans and hopes.
                She watched the two men as they stepped into the shuttered semidarkness of the casa. “Tía is resting for a moment,” she explained as she led them into the parlor. “Her strength left as she was preparing to see the two of you. But she will be all right in a while.” She motioned to a silver tea service, which she had set out for their visit. “May I pour you some tea?”
                The padre looked at her in apparent amazement. Since she had never before spoken to them beyond what was necessary, Naomi wondered what was going through his mind.
                “Dear,” the old padre began as he took a sip of tea from a delicate china cup, “where did you learn to make tea that is so rich—almost like coffee?”
                Naomi glanced up from the cup she was pouring for herself and smiled. She knew that neither of these men had ever concerned themselves about her before, and that was to her advantage. “Why, Padre, you flatter me. Thank you for being interested in such a small thing as this little service, which I have done for you when you visited La Señora. This tea is made like one would make espresso. You may know it better as sweet tea because after I poured your tea, I added sugar and cream both in large portions. I learned to make it this way from mi mamá while I was yet a young girl in Spain.” She lowered her eyes so he would not see the pleasure she derived by giving him a small tidbit of her history. She remembered the times she laid out tea for these men, yet they had never before spoken to her or asked any questions. Since he did not respond, she looked up to see if he understood. Noting the look of confusion in his eyes, Naomi almost lost control of the tight rein she kept on her emotions. Although the situation was a serious one, she felt like laughing at the absurdity of their role reversal: she, a servant, acting like a grand dame, and he, the priest, seeming as confused as she had been when she first arrived at Tía’s casa. Fighting to regain control, she coughed to stifle her natural reaction and smiled sweetly as she lowered her eyes.


Insight unlike hindsight or foresight allows us the luxury of imagining what would happen ‘if.’ Without the ‘if’ we are day dreaming, spinning yarns. With the ‘if’ of possibility we feel free to imagine, and our imaginings can take us to a place where survival is replaced with an inner reality more real for some than the one they are living.

Revelation 22: 17 says, The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

In Biblical Judaism the father chooses the bride and pays the bride price. Once betrothed, the groom builds a home. Although all might be ready, the groom cannot fetch his bride until the father tells him to. While the bride waits for the day when her intended will fetch her, her days are filled with preparation so that when she is claimed, she has everything that her home and husband will need.

The bride, like Naomi and perhaps you, might know very little or nothing about what will be. Yet the possibility of a bright future and the insight that being set free from previously imposed restrictions allow one to hope. Where there is hope the heart quickens, ones step is lighter, and we smile. 

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