Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It's been bothering me.

An acquaintance of ours has acquired a building. When I saw him, I congratulated him on his purchase, and asked him what he was going to do with it. He said that he was going to turn it into apartments. "Great idea," I told him, "because really there is a shortage of good housing here." That's the truth. There are a lot of folks who buy buildings and put no money into them, and just let them rot down around peoples ears while squeezing every bit of money they can out of the tenants. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times...'Don't fix a rental up too nicely. It will just get trashed.' Nice rentals are few and far between. This fellow agreed, and talked about the fact that his apartments will be upscale. I commented that having a washer and dryer on premise was a big deal for our tenants. As I poured my coffee, I said, "I could not believe how many calls we got on our last apartment. A tiny little efficiency, but people were begging to move in, with their significant others, in some cases with a child or two, and once, two adults, a child and a coon hound." Much to my shock, the gentleman began to mock the caliber of tenants that he had come to look at his apartment, admitting he was stereotyping, but making fun of their bad teeth, making fun of the way they spoke, etc. I didn't know what to do so I stood stupidly in my place and said nothing.

I think of our tenants. The one with bad teeth is my daughter. All of them have had some real rough times. But they are good people, despite these struggles. They pay their rent on time. They tell us how lucky they are. We tell them how lucky we are. We feel a big responsibility to them. They are loyal to us. We can trust them. One of them even went out and bought a lawn mower to keep our grass mowed. He likes yardwork, bless his heart. The antique library table in the front hall is decorated for the seaon by our Laura, and she waters the palm tree.

I look at this man going on, sarcastically, mockingly. He was not raised in wealth. He has been lucky in life, and is busy in our church.

Now, two days later, I am still bothered by this conversation. I keep telling myself that I would have been bothered by that conversation even if it had taken place in a McDonalds. It didn't though. It took place in Sunday School and that is bugging the crap out of me.

Know what else? My own silence shames me.


Mrs. Spit said...

I've been there. And you aren't sure what to say. And you just sit there.

If it's still bothering you, say something. If only to say "Hey, not for nothing, but I listened to you, and maybe I smiled, but I've been ashamed of our conversation, and I can't help but think God was too."

He might be unhappy about it as well.

Unknown said...

Wow..I was so touched by your post! We have been those tenants you speak of. The hard times ones!! How very sad that people just assume that how you look dictates your heart. I would have been a bit dumb founded too!! Keep doing what you are doing and know you will be blessed for what you offer! Wonderful post!! Namaste, Sarah

Lydia said...

I have to say, I have had seasons in my life where I was on all sides of that conversation, the one being ridiculed, the one riduculing, and the one who said nothing.

I hope that some day this man will judge people for their motives and actions and heart, not by their mannerisms and outward appearances. I'm grateful that I have been seen as "less than", that I moved to a place where I judged others AS "less than", and with God's help I am able to see all as equals going on their own journey through this thing we call life.

Debby said...

Mrs. Spit, out of everyone I've never met, I have to say that you really have the right words for just about any occasion. I don't want to sound like a judgemental and angry person, because as Lydia wisely pointed out, I've had my own seasons of being the ridiculer. What I've learned is that it is uncomfortable whether its coming out of your own mouth, entering your ears, or rolling around in your mind.

Kelly said...

It's always easy for me to realize what I should have said or done (or NOT said or done) in hindsight, but often the moment is one that can't be returned to. However, you can be alert to future conversations like this and make it clear then that you're not comfortable with them.

Sadly churches are full of hypocrites just like any other area of life. And yes, I've been the guilty one more time than I care to remember.

Anonymous said...

At times, I, too, have been shamed by my silence (and there have been times where speaking up has gotten me into a lot of trouble.) The thing with staying silent when confronted with an attitude of a person such as the one described in your post is they
tend take your silence as a form of agreement. But then again, it’s often an exercise in
futility arguing with such people because more often or not you’re not going to change their minds.

Don’t beat yourself up too much about your silence – your second paragraph
shows that you treat your tenants with dignity and respect; and actions speak louder
than words.


Danielle Michelle said...

It's amazing how people rarely practice what they preach isn't it? Classic case of the 'judgementals' if you ask me.

Don't feel bad that you were struck speechless by someone you thought would never do what they did. It happens to all of us!

PaintedPromise said...

sometimes, Deb, "struck dumb" happens for a reason. words, once said, cannot be unsaid...

as DavidM said, your actions speak!

Redlefty said...

Most people I talk to at church, and everyone at my office, knows that I have a "no gossip" rule. I just won't participate, either in speaking or listening. And I define gossip as anything about a person that I wouldn't say if they were in the room.

It was hard the first few times I enacted the rule, but now I have no qualms cutting people off mid-sentence.

You've done the noble thing now, though, by internalizing the situation and realizing that you want to handle the next one differently. And I believe you will!