the listener (guest writer #8)

If you read The Intramuralist often, you know she has a voice that is passionate about the need to listen… to be respectful… to be non-judgmental.  Perhaps she inherited some of her grandfather’s DNA, for without the benefit of Facebook, he lived the same passion, face-to-face instead.  Let me introduce you to this Listener.

 

In a small town there are two people who “know the scoop” about what is happening when, where, and with whom.  No, it is not that they gossip. Rather, they offer a listening ear and closed mouth to their clientele.  They are encouragers, not judges.  So despite the qualifications of the two local pastors in the Minnesota town of my upbringing, Archie, the barber, and Herb, the bartender, were the confidantes, though they never hung out their shingles.  Herb was my dad, and since people drink a beer more often than they get a haircut, he “worked” overtime.

 

Now I can’t say that as a teen, I was particularly impressed when a customer came in for the coffee I served, but seemed more interested in conversation with my dad in the corner booth.  I knew Dad enjoyed people, and I just passed it off as his friendly attitude.  There was Blanch who needed to join AA, Hank who lost his job, and Herman who was depressed.  But then I discovered friends of mine came to see him too… Jo who was heartbroken over Bob’s rejection, Eddie who was leaving for the Army, Merle who felt she was a disappointment to her parents.  Even after I left for college, they still came to see him.  They sent him cards when they traveled; they called just to say hello; they brought their new spouse to meet him; they came to call at his funeral. With more maturity, I came to realize that Dad knew the importance of people.  His concern and interest were authentic.  His insights wise.  He could be trusted with what was entrusted to him.  He knew love listens.   Would we all seek to listen as my dad?  … and his granddaughter… listening that is respectful and non-judgmental.

.

And oh yes, the pastors came to see him too… knocking at the back door to visit… and knowing they could buy a six-pack without anyone else knowing.

 

Thanks, Intramuralist, for the opportunity to share.

 

Respectfully,

DDL

the perfect parenting guidelines… do not exist (guest writer #5)

An old friend likes to say, “I was the perfect parent – until I started having children.”

 

You know the story. The idealistic 20-something sees children acting up in the grocery store and thinks to herself, “I will never let my children act like that.” And then, as if to mock her own words, her children became THOSE children.

 

The one guarantee I can share with you is that there is no guarantee – no manual for raising the perfect child. It does not exist. Why? Because the perfect child does not exist. He’s just a myth.

 

I read them: Those books about raising children. Meant to give you the formula for The Perfect Child, those books only deepen the guilt.

 

I read them, looked at my own children, and the guilt deepened. I must be doing it all wrong. My children not only opposed those perfect parenting formulas, they stomped, shredded, chewed, hit one another with, and tore into little bits those guilt-inducing instructional books.

 

And my guilt grew exponentially. This is all my fault. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I do this better? Make me a solid list of rules I can follow so these children can become perfect (and so I, by association, can become the Perfect Parent). No such list ever appeared. But boy, the publishing houses have tried!

 

And then I encountered grace. While I was so bent on following the law, I failed to see the truth of grace: that I could never do it right. That they would never become perfect. That every day, in every way, we all fail. And at that moment of realization, law in all its sternness became balanced with grace in all its sweetness.

 

That I can never match up to the obligations of the law is abundantly clear. In his essay “The Chronicle of an Undeception,” Michael Bauman says, “The tragic vision of life arises from the fact that we are flawed — deeply, desperately, tragically flawed — and we cannot be trusted. We are broken at the soul; our defect is life wide and heart deep.” I am in desperate need of One whose perfection can fill all those empty places of failure.

 

And what I so desperately needed to teach my children was that they, too, were flawed and needed the sweet sacrifice of a Savior to cancel all that. Once I – and my children – can learn, really internalize, that truth, then redemption can take place.

 

You see, I was trying to impose a set of laws on myself and on my family, and by sheer force of will make them abide by these rules, these formulas.

 

But what all those parenting books never told me was the ugly truth. Sets of rules imposed upon sinners won’t save them from their sins. The rules (or laws) only deepen the sense of failure, as the book of Romans so beautifully tells us.

What I need, and what my children need, is the truth of the gospel, taught daily. Only then can we be free from the guilt, the shame, the failure.

 

Did I then become the Perfect Parent? Not at all. I still fail, and I continue to fail, and so do my children. But at least now I know why I have failed and how to address it. I rest my failures at the foot of the cross, thank my Savior for covering me with His redeeming grace, and live to fail another day. Where that thought may have discouraged me mightily 10, 15, 20 years ago, now I can smile, because I know I am forgiven, covered, and guilt-free.

 

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (See Romans 7: 1-25)

 

Respectfully,

Shaunna

service of others (guest writer #3)

What does an apartment flood, a house fire, and a stolen car all have in common?

 

My family.

 

We have walked through each of these trying times, and by His grace have walked out stronger and with a greater appreciation of each other, our community, and how material things are just possessions.

 

Yes, just possessions.

 

It was October 6, 2004, and I was pregnant with our sixth son.  I was having a rough time and was ill from this pregnancy.  My mom had taken our 18 month old to her house.  My hubby and oldest were off to football, and I had taken the middle 3 boys to their weekly church program.  I was coming home to soak in the bathtub and enjoy the quiet.  Instead, I pulled up to firefighters kicking out the windows to our burning house.  I am so thankful none of the boys were in the car, since that sight gave me nightmares for weeks.  More thankfully, none of us were home, since the fire started in the box of firewood, we were told none of us would’ve survived.  The fire burned so hot, it melted the smoke detectors.

 

The events that happened next are the part I really want to share with you, my friends…

 

The sweetest elderly couple in a Red Cross van came to us that evening, provided basic clothes, toiletries, and necessities.  We had friends and neighbors bringing blankets and food.  The Red Cross put us up in a hotel for a night, and then we stayed with family for the rest of the week.  Our church was truly God’s hands and feet to us — there anytime we needed.  Our van had died in this time, too, leaving my boys and myself stuck in a busy intersection.  So they had an anonymous donor buy us, a new van to us.  We found a rental house only six days later, and the Red Cross put down our deposit.  Our church then completely furnished the house, including a generously stocked fridge.

 

Our football organization held fundraisers and collections for household items and clothes.  We had people calling and trying to explain the connection to our family through a friend or just how they had heard of our situation — could they just drop off some money?

 

My hubby worked at Cincinnati’s Xavier University at the time, and the student athletes put on a Christmas party; they filled our new van so full we could hardly get it all home!

 

The outpouring of love, grace, and openhandedness from local churches, sports organizations, Red Cross, Coats for Kids, and so many more friends of friends was just amazing.

 

Friends, I know we are all busy, but when given the chance, I encourage you to be a part of your community as much as possible.  Join a church, a sports team, organization, or a community group.  You may start out thinking you are there to help someone else, but the person you will help the most is yourself.

 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

— Mahatma Ghandi

 

Respectfully,

AW

pressure (guest writer #2)

When I was a young mom, things were simple. If we threw a baby shower, there was cake, a vegetable and fruit tray, and some punch. Everyone brought a gift and that was it. There was lots of fun, lots of memories, and no pressure. As our children celebrated birthdays, pin the tail on the donkey and a piñata and maybe musical chairs sufficed. A cake and punch with some ice cream thrown in for good measure was enough and everyone had a good time.  I am so happy we didn’t have Facebook and Instagram then. The same pressure I feel when I see how many miles my friends have jogged and how they beat their time on their last marathon would have done me in.

 

As my children are all young adults now, I endure ribbing about their childhood short shorts and striped shirts and buzzed or bowl haircuts (… which I might add, were fashionable at the time). But it doesn’t bother me because I know that back then, I didn’t care and neither did they or their friends. They were clean and clothed and not naked. I shopped at Mervyns and thrift shops. It was enough, and we were happy.

 

I feel sorry for this generation, parading their exercise and dietary accomplishments, relationships, clothing choices, extravagant parties and seemingly perfect lives for all to see. The motives may be pure, but do our narcissistic natures cause us to paint a media picture that is not real?

 

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to know how much snot is coming from your baby’s nose or how naughty Johnny is and how you want to send him to boot camp. That is just as unhelpful. But do we post things to make ourselves look a certain way? Do we post things that we would say in normal conversation?

 

Imagine yourself standing in the lobby at church or your favorite hangout and announcing at the top of your lungs:

 

“Everyone, Mary brought me a meal tonight!  I am so lucky I have so many friends!”

“Everyone, look at how cute I look in my new dress!”

“Everyone, I spent only $200 on Hank’s first birthday party; everything was perfect and only a few of you were invited!”

“I am so strong; I can actually run 22 miles a week and live on carrots!”

“Everyone, my child is such a brat. I can’t take it anymore!”

 

Maybe I’m a spoil sport, but I think I’m not the only one who feels this way. One time I posted a quote about marriage on my Facebook page on my anniversary. Soon after, I noticed an old friend had unfriended me. As I searched my heart as to why, I believe that quote cut her to the quick. She has never married and always wanted to. Do I know this for sure? No, but the Lord used it to convict me.

 

Facebook isn’t real. It tempts us to say things and present ourselves in a way that is not authentic. We get wrapped up in what we want to say without thinking of how our readers might feel. We don’t see their reactions or have the ability to interact with them after they read or see our latest entry. It is like having an unharnessed tongue on crack.

 

I love the Bible. It touches every topic and I believe there are principles that God defined that apply to this issue as well. If used as a filter, they could guide us as we pen our thoughts and post our pictures for the world to see.

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  Phil 4:8

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

 

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Proverbs 12:18

 

Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20.

 

In light of these guidelines, what do we do?  Be sensitive to your audience. Will others feel left out, condemned or discouraged from reading or seeing your photostream? Will they feel informed on social issues, or politics? Will they feel encouraged about the ways that you are growing and learning on your journey? Don’t forget the old-fashioned thank you note. Thank people for their generosity toward you in a private message rather than publicly.  Your children are darling, and I like seeing them. I will rejoice in your marathon success, and I will try not to covet your physical abilities.  And as the old adage goes: if in doubt, don’t.

 

Respectfully,

DC

oh my

Infamous, celebrity butter connoisseur, Paula Deen — the Paula Deen of the millions of dollars Deen cooking empire — acknowledged the previous use of a racial slur.  On Friday, Deen apologized for “the wrong that I’ve done,” following this week’s admission that she said the “N-word” years ago.  Almost immediately, the Food Network fired her.  The Emmy-winning chef has worked for the Food Network for the past 14 years.

 

Allow us to begin with a few caveats and statements of fact.  First and foremost, none of us know everything; we continually make judgments and build perspective based on limited information.  Second, the name calling was not (at least admitted to be) in public.  And third, the “N-word” is a racial slur that many of all skin colors still reserve the right to say for some reason.  That said…

 

I wonder… (as you knew I would…)

 

How forgiving of a society are we?

When exactly does a person “cross the line”?

When has their debt or wrong choice gone too far?

70 times 7?  When do we legitimately choose to forgive… or to not?

 

Please don’t equate consequence with forgiveness.  Such is a separate topic; there are consequences for poor choices.  Today my question centers around forgiveness… especially as we hear the “aghast’s,” “oh my’s,” and “she should pay” in regard to a Paula Deen.

 

Can we extend forgiveness that far?

 

For many we say they don’t deserve to be forgiven…

 

I’m reminded of the historical king’s account who decided to forgive the monetary debts of his servants.  As he got under way in the squaring up process, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars.  He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.  Yes, an awful fate.

 

The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, “Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.”  Touched by his plea, the king let him off, actually erasing the debt.

 

The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his own peers who owed him only ten dollars.  The servant seized him by the throat and demanded, “Pay up.  Now!”

 

This poor wretch threw himself down and begged, “Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back,” but he wouldn’t do it.  The original servant had him arrested and put in jail until his debt was paid.  When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

 

The king summoned the man and said, “You evil servant!  I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy.  Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?”

 

Isn’t that seemingly half our problem?  Even if it’s a poor choice we have also made, we still often hold others to a higher standard than ourselves.  We ask for mercy; yet at the same time, we often withhold it from others.  We withhold mercy.  We refrain from freely offering forgiveness.  “They don’t deserve it!” we are tempted to adamantly reply.  Paula Deen obviously made a poor choice, but the reality is that many among us — including those at the Food Network — have most likely said the exact same thing or something comparable or even worse.  And yet, there is no forgiveness.  There is sadly, seemingly, only more “aghast’s,” “oh my’s,” and “she should pay.”

 

Respectfully,

AR

hospital visits

Yesterday was our annual trek to Children’s Hospital.  While there exist few things I would say everyone should do, regular visits to Children’s would be one of them.  A simple stroll through the hallways quickly puts life in perspective.  As we saw yesterday…

 

Obesity and undernutrition and the inability to walk.

One little girl’s legs who were thinner than my largest toes.

Casts.  IV’s.  Legs, arms, heads… all wrapped up.

Wheelchairs… lots of wheel chairs.

Multiple disabilities… including one adolescent, stationary in her chair, who couldn’t seem to hold her head up… in fact, no limbs looked able to be lifted.

A young boy — maybe 3, 4 — only crying in pain in the hallway.

A new mom, with an obvious desperate countenance — cradling her bundled babe, who seemed too young to don both a face mask an IV…

 

Yes, one trek to Children’s puts life in perspective.  It saps our arrogance.  It erases any thoughts of “why me” or “woe is me.”  It quickly shocks us out of our selfish states and moves us instead to a genuine thoughtfulness of other people…  a genuine compassion — not to be confused with the one who believes they are compassionate, but somehow still justifies disrespect or awful, arrogant rhetoric with the holder of an opposition voice or perspective.  Perhaps my family’s extended time at Children’s Hospital years ago solidified those roots of respect previously sewn.  After all, the Intramuralist comes from an ancestry of strong personalities, including a pastor and a bartender in recent generations.  Hence, we talk about all things — and we talk about them compassionately and respectfully.

 

Several years ago, my youngest son almost lost his life.  We spent 3 weeks in Children’s cardiac ICU ward.  For most of that time, a machine breathed the breaths our son could not.  Josh was born missing a wall in his heart.

 

While I would wish that experience on no one, I also wouldn’t trade it for the world.  It’s times like that — that are so deep, so piercing, and so knowingly out of our control — when you figure out what life’s about.  I remember one nurse who lingered one morn, shortly after Josh’s vitals had significantly deteriorated.  She waited ‘til all others were gone, and then she humbly yet boldly asked, “I don’t get it.  How can you be so calm?”

 

I smiled weakly, with the seemingly few ounces of energy and adrenaline left in my body during those continued days of sleepless nights, responding, “There’s a reason I have the faith that I do.  If I’m not going to hold onto it now, why have it?”  In the weeks that followed, that faith only strengthened, as I have little doubt my family and I had front row seats to one outstanding miracle.  Josh is a healthy, vibrant, incredible young man today.

 

Each year we go back for our annual visit, checking the heart chambers, evaluating any changes in the leakage that will forever be with him.  Once again, yesterday, we were blessed with a positive report.

 

As we were stopped along one hallway, an older teen pulled up near Josh in his motorized chair.  His face and limbs were slightly disfigured, but typical of my Josh, he saw none of that.  Josh simply looked at him, smiled, and enthusiastically said, “Hi!”

 

The teen, who was diligently typing with one finger on the keyboard on his lap — through that amplified keyboard — slowly said, “Can’t complain.  How are you?”  Josh said, “Awesomeness!”  Then Josh asked his name.  With a deliberate reply and an awkward but very cool fist bump, Josh turned and yelled, “Hey, Dad!  Meet Brad.  He can type!”

 

As I said, those visits to Children’s always put life in perspective.

 

Respectfully,

AR

relevant?

You may have realized that the Intramuralist has a bit of a “nerdy side.”  Sorry, I’m pretty comfortable with it.  It’s the part of me that implored me to memorize each offensive stat for every Major League Baseball starter as a kid — and the same motive for committing each amendment in the Bill of Rights to a different (albeit creative and quite timely) tune.  Yes, my inner nerd remains alive and well.

 

The beautiful aspect of this nerdy self is that it’s prompted by a sincere quest for knowledge.  I want to know what actually is good and true and right.  I don’t just want to repeat that mantra because it sounds good.  Hence, as an adult, the pursuit has continued — although absent a few of the most current baseball statistics.

 

One of my keen pursuits is the annual reading of the bible.  Call me nerdy.  Call me nuts.  Ask me what kind of reading is that.  But the bottom line is that if this is a centuries old revering of wisdom, then I want to know what’s in it.  I don’t want to express concurrence nor contention without being fully aware of what’s in the book.  I also don’t want to simply pick and choose what to apply.  I want to know the book in its entirety.  I want to understand what has made this book so offensive to so many.  I want to get why still more have embraced it with their last, dying breath.  If this is a book of unparalleled wisdom, then I want to comprehend what I can — rather than rely on someone or something other than the source to filter what it says.

 

Let the record show — human as I am (and God, have a little grace on me, por favor) — that sometimes I’ve gotten a little bored.  There have been passages where I utter a “what” or  “what’s the big deal” or even an “ewwww.”   When I search through the kings’ annals and ancient building code accounts, I’ve even (sorry) been prone to dozing off.  As seemingly always, however, something strikes me.  Profoundly.  Something typically unexpected… but yet, amazingly, acutely, relevant.  Just as it did this morning…

 

Attention all…  God’s message…

There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.

There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;

There is violence everywhere —
one murder after another.

That is why your land is in mourning,
and everyone is wasting away.
Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea are disappearing.

Don’t point your finger at someone else
and try to pass the blame…

My people are being destroyed
because they don’t know me.

 

Know it’s with great sobriety that I share the above — aware of the violence in our land… the effect on our environment… the individual, corporate, and even government’s dishonorable behavior — and also a behavior often seemed ignored or even celebrated.  We all have at some time engaged in poor behavior, yet as I read the above, I’m struck with how it begins… with “no acknowledgement of God in the land.”

 

Are we freely allowed to acknowledge God in this land?

 

Or is that being squelched?  Is God’s name being removed?  From public places?  From public credit?

 

I wonder… “my people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.”  My inner nerd wants to comprehend how relevant that is today…

 

Respectfully,

AR

out!

Listen closely to line #1:  this is not a sports post.  (Remember that…)

This past weekend, I couldn’t believe the judgment of the infield umpire!

 

Alex, who plays for our team — the good team, the right team, the wisest and best — was leading off on first.  The game was tight — a top team tournament; it was close; only the winner would advance.  Let’s just say the intensity seemingly increased with each and every pitch.  This was serious.  This was 13 year old baseball.

 

Unbeknownst to all fans in the stands, Alex discretely received the “steal” sign.  He takes off.  He is fast!  The ball soars from the catcher’s hands, streaming across the infield, straight to the shortstop, whose current primary goal is to tag our Alex out.

 

Man, I had an excellent view from the stands!  I was standing directly in line with the base path; and so when the catcher let it loose, I saw the ball sail 2 feet behind the runner.  There was no tag.  “Way to go, Alex,” I immediately thought.  The ball was no where close.

 

Then came the umpire’s emphatic call…  “You’re OUT!

 

Excuse me?

 

In order to throw out an attempted base stealer, the runner must be tagged.  Alex had to be tagged.  The ball was nowhere close.  There was no possible way for our player to be out.

 

Are you kidding me?  What are you thinking?!  Are you stupid?  How smart are you?

 

Oh, wait… I see now…

 

Alex is white.  The umpire is black.  He’s African-American.  That’s it!!  He must have called Alex out due to the color of his skin!!

 

Nothing else explains this.  Nothing else explains the ump’s insistent opinion that is completely inconsistent with mine.  He must have called Alex out due to the color of his skin.

 

This is truly unexplainable.  Why else would a seemingly intelligent person do this?  The ball was nowhere close!  There was no tag.  ‘Racist’!  ‘Racist,’ I say!!

 

And so begins my search for something that will explain the unexplainable.  In other words, I seek an answer that will make sense to me.  I, of course, had the clearest, wisest. and least obstructed view.

 

Hence, when someone else makes a judgment call that is nothing less than unfathomable to me, I seek for a way to comprehend their opinion… typically a way that makes them look a little lesser — and me look a little more…

 

(… more what, we ask?)

 

We often conclude the rationale of another is due to the most visible factor — not necessarily the most likely factor — simply the most visible.  If we can’t explain something, we often look only at what’s easiest to see.  That’s perhaps why so many are so quick to utilize race and/or ethnicity to explain away analysis that would take far more effort, time, and selflessness to truly comprehend.

 

The reason the infield umpire called Alex out had zero to do with either’s skin color.  The ump called him out because his perspective was different than mine.

 

I can’t argue that.  I can’t call him ‘racist’ nor even accuse him of being stupid.  I can, however, in the future, encourage him to alter his perspective…

 

Respectfully,

AR

tweeting

What are we teaching the younger generation?

What are we modeling for our kids?

 

… that appearance is everything?

… that sports stars and celebrities are life’s most admirable professions?

… that an ABC summer show entitled “Mistresses” is good television?

 

That’s the question:  what are we teaching them?

 

Are we teaching that Facebook status updates are authentic?  … that we’re truly, transparently representing who and how we are?  … that Facebook relationships are real relationships?

 

Or better yet — and where my head and heart have lined up this day — that Twitter & Co. count for legitimate dialogue?

 

As all Intramuralist readers know, communication is of utmost importance.  How we communicate makes all the difference in the world.  The Intramuralist believes that all subjects can be discussed — albeit not necessarily agreed upon — if the approach is respectful and prioritizes active listening.  That’s the mantra of this blog:  all opinions are welcome as long as the opinion expressed is respectful to those with whom you may disagree.  Only through respectful discussion, friends, is solution viable.

 

Yet continually in Washington and in our work place, we have very intelligent men and women who for some reason reserve the right to rhetorically slam their brother and sister when the moment is too tempting and ripe.  They arrogantly belittle and bemoan, forgoing even the feigning of listening.  One wonders why.  Why is this so hard to comprehend?  Why is this still so challenging for otherwise bright-minded people?

 

Look at what we’re teaching the younger generation.

 

As social media has exploded over the past half dozen years, we have allowed them to accept Twitter as a wise form of dialogue.  In fact, we have allowed them to believe that it even is dialogue.

 

Excuse me?

 

Dialogue is a conversation between 2 or more people.  To engage in dialogue means to converse or discuss in order to resolve a problem.

 

There is no dialogue on Twitter.  There is no conversation.  In fact, there is little conversation whatsoever in all of social media.

 

Twitter is simply a listing of one-liners where the Tweeter can tweet whatever he or she desires.  There is no eye contact.  There is no empathetic, compassionate, nor comprehending glance in that person’s direction.  There is no feeling; there is nothing warm nor cold.

 

Twitter is a list of comments — often snarky or satirical — in which one person attempts to manage the impression others have of them.  There is no respectful back-and-forth.  In fact, because it’s not actually dialogue, Twitter and the rest of social cyberspace often damage more relationships than they maintain or repair.

 

Friends, Twitter is not an evil within society.  Just like most things, a positive tool can be negatively employed.  The disservice we are allowing for the younger generation, however — as we tweet, too — is that social media is something it’s not… that Twitter and tweeting and even texting take the place of authentic, wise communication.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR

a “bad” experience

Years ago when my oldest son was a wibbling, wobbling toddler, I will never forget the day his stuffed Curious George went sailing through the aisle at our local grocery.  While first appalled that my son would turn his beloved companion into a public projectile, I couldn’t help but chuckle as George came to rest in the narrow gauntlet between multiple canned goods.  I may have even grinned from ear to ear.

 

Unfortunately, my laughter quickly subsided, as George landed a mere 3-4 feet in front of one of those motorized carts, donned by an obviously, elderly lady.

 

“I’m sorry, ma’am.  My son threw his favorite stuffed animal.”

 

Instead of the articulated grace perhaps far too naively expected, the lady’s countenance turned immediately stern, glaring at me, squinting her eyes, and then retorting, “You need to get better control of your children!”

 

I was shocked.  What?  I need to get better control?  There is no grace for a harmless throw of Curious George?

 

Let me tell you what I did not…

I did not conclude that all elderly women are as withholding of grace as she.  I did not conclude that all persons on motorized carts have lost respect for the rest of the waiting world.  No.  I made zero conclusions about the elderly nor those on those oh-so-cool motorized carts.

 

However, my sense is that refraining from making conclusions — when we have 1 “bad” experience — is the rarity as opposed to the norm.

 

How often do we do that?  How often do we make conclusions about an entire demographic because of a singular experience?  For example…

 

Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a Christian?  (“Bad” equates to harshness and immediate judgment.)  Have you had 2, 4, maybe even 17 “bad” interactions?  There are billions of Christians on this planet.  Even 17 so-called “bad” experiences pale in comparison.

 

Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a Republican or Democrat?  (“Bad” equates to arrogance and a clear failure to listen.)  There are millions of partisans on this planet; they are not all the same.  In fact, I have a brother who is a state legislator.  He is ethical, fiscally responsible, and he listens to those he represents.  More of our representatives — regardless of party — should be like him.

 

Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community? … or with someone who believes LGBT behavior is unnatural?  (“Bad” equates to so passionate they actually justify condescendence of persons with differing opinion.)  I have friends who are gay… and friends who believe homosexuality is sinful.  I have both who still love and respect their neighbor.

 

Friends, one of the most accepted forms of arrogance on this planet is when we make judgments about entire people groups because of 1 “bad” experience.  Sure, we don’t feel it’s only 1.  We find other likeminded persons to “amen” our experience, so we’re never confronted with the darts that pierce our self-inflated bubbles; we’re never confronted with the reality that challenges our self-created reality.  In other words, we allow 1 or 2 or even 17 “bad” experiences to tell us what we want to hear — as opposed to be on a continuous seeking of actual truth.  Too many times, experience trumps truth.

 

When the lady at that grocery challenged my parenting, I wish all could have witnessed the astonished look on my face…

 

“What?  I need to get better control of my children?”

 

I knew her response was not the response of all people.  It was not even the response of all elderly women on motorized carts.  Hence, I smiled, paused, and said the first thing that came to mind…

 

“Have a nice day, ma’am.  I will, too.”

 

Respectfully…

AR