Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Training My Dragon

We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with.
~C.S. Lewis

I suppose the plus side of not having TV service and not going out to see movies is that when the nearby theater offers free G-rated movies, it is a really special treat for the Princess and we have not seen them before. Yesterday we met a friend with her grandson to see "How to Train Your Dragon." The Princess and I both really enjoyed the movie!

The theater was packed, and I do mean packed, even though there were several theater rooms showing the same movie. Hundreds of families and busloads of daycare children all converge like ants going into an ant hill. I do not like crowds, but I appreciate that I do not have to be there at all and it is free, so I try not to complain, but....

During the movie a few people had their cell phones on and I don't mean that their cell phone rang and they talked, I mean that the panel was lit. In a dark movie theater, those lit panels are like flashlights and I found them quite disturbing. I ask one girl three seats down to turn hers off and later someone in front of me turned hers on. For the most part, though, I enjoyed the movie without distraction, evaluating the experience as one that I could tolerate nearly every Tuesday for the summer for the love of my Princess. You see, I think there is always a price to be paid for something free in one way or another and unfortunately that is more often right than not.

Saying good bye to our friends, the Princess and I went off to get our own dragon, our mini-van Dragon Heart, to go back home. A church van was parked beside Dragon Heart with teenagers just standing around it. Doors were open but they were not getting in, just hanging around as teens do without direction. It was not necessary as vehicles where shaded by the shadow of the building and not hot. As I got around the back of their van to view my own, I saw one teenage boy, taller than I, holding the front door open of their van while leaning his entire body on Dragon Heart.

I said "excuse me" politely, but loud enough to be heard to the number of girls and the boy standing between the vans, so that I could get to the driver side door. There was plenty of room between the vans and the girls moved over easily so I could get by. As I approached the door, I said "excuse me" twice more and a bit more sternly each time before the boy got his body off the side of my van. A woman came around and said that I did not have to say it that way. I said that the boy was leaning on my van. She again said that I did not have to say it that way and that he did not mean to. A number of things went through my mind, because it was so very obvious that the boy was quite comfortable and quite purposely leaning on my van, and I said again that he was leaning on my van and this was not the best witness for their church. I was rather surprised that latter part came out of my mouth, as it is not like me to say such a thing, so I decided that I should just not say anything more at all and I did not.

After voicing a few more words defending the boy and beginning to scold me again, the woman stopped and told me to just go, which is exactly what I wanted to do so I got in my van and made sure that all the teens were out of the way while a huge man came around the back of their van to the side and, although there was a good space between the vans, he was a very big man who just stood there making it difficult for me to turn backing up, so I could go toward the closest exit. I decided to back up turning the other way.

Now, my husband and I were youth group leaders for a few years, in your younger days, and I know teens are not always as courteous as we would like them to be, so this could have happened on any one of our outings. I also have to say that I do have a pet peeve about people not respecting other people's property and just because my van is parked next to another vehicle does not give people the right to smack their car door into it, which happen two days ago while I was still in it, or to lean on it when I am not there.

I thought about all this as I was driving away trying to figure out why I was so disturbed by how it was handled (and why I would ever say what I did) and it came to me that they did not meet my expectation. You see, I believe that expectations are always the root of people being upset or hurt and when I take that perspective, I can step away from my emotional responses and see the root of my feelings as well as the feelings of others.

I realized that had the situation been the other way around, I would have been the woman coming over to apologize for the teen and expecting him to apologize also. I suppose part of me expected them to do the same. I accept that teens can to be inconsiderate at times, but for a Christian adult in charge of a teen church group to defend a boy when he is in the wrong...what is that teaching him? I was so not getting that one. I may have been stern, but only after I was disregarded.

Now, I am not one to talk in terms of skin color usually. People, to me, are just people. There are different cultures and I think that makes people interesting, but I do not make judgements on color. I have, at times, been on the opposite side of that where my color was a factor and this could have been one of those times. I could not help but notice that all the people associated with the van were black and I wondered if I had also been black would they have treated me the same way because then I might be the right skin color to be invited to their church. Then I asked myself if I would have treated them the same way if they were any other color. Yes, I know I would have because it was all about what they did. Would it have happened differently if my husband was there? Probably the boy would have moved right away, just because my husband is a big guy and people tend to pay attention to him more. I, on the other hand, being on the more petite side and in a long denim skirt can be ignored more easily it seems. I did not feel threatened, just insignificant.

I told my husband about it right afterward because he had called me while we were watching the movie. He had a flat tire and the jack broke, but by the time I had gotten back to him, he had it resolved and was getting two new tires. We knew we needed them soon anyway.

Later in the day, he and I both talked to other Christian friends about it. I talked to a friend of mine who is white and married to a black man. My husband talked to a black man he thinks of highly and used to work with. Surprising us, they both said the same thing. They said that attitude is common with "all black" churches. Although I have listened to speeches of activist black pastors talk about whites as if we are an enemy, I really believed racial tension was uncommon these days, perhaps because I have never been to a church that makes distinctions between skin colors.

Why was it acceptable for the teen to lean on my car at all, not move when he could clearly see I was the owner, a chaperone to scold me for rudeness but say nothing to the boy, and a large man to try to intimidate me as I was trying to leave? Was it because my skin color did not match theirs? That thought really saddens me, but not as much as the thought that I needed to train my own dragon, my tongue, because I did not like that one thing I said.

~ My Lord, I wish I had handled the situation differently. Perhaps I could have just stood back and waited for them to acknowledge me before I tried to get into my van. That would have been the less confrontational way to handle it. Better yet, I could have prayed first...why didn't I pray first? My Lord, help me to be a better witness for You and train my dragon tongue. ~

4 comments:

  1. When my children were younger, we went to the neighborhood pool to swim. I kindly asked a lady to turn down her music (rap with vulgar language). I'm a small, quiet person, but she got in my face and then turned the music UP. I didn't know what to do and it was clear she couldn't be reasoned with, so we just swam and ignored her and the crowd. I wonder if I or my kids had been a different color, it would've been different.

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  2. I know that my Noah often gets treated differently because of the color of his skin... and frequently by people who assert that they're "not prejudiced." Ummyeah, you are;-}

    We all are to a certain extent I think, it's part of the human condition. For what it's worth I would have acted exactly as you did, Linda.

    In other news... would you be interested in skyping sometime? I'd love to! I feel like I haven't talked to you in forever♥

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  3. Diane, I am sorry I have not called for so long. I would LOVE to Skype with you as soon as my laptop has a reliable power supply again. I am using another computer right now and it is not well set up for that kind of thing. I just ordered a replacement today with free shipping from Amazon, which means it can take a week to get here. I will let you know when I have it and we will set up a time.

    I have goosebumps now!

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  4. Paula, I know everyone has some stories like that. It is so difficult to know if it is a racial thing or not...and I usually am the last one to even think such things are about the differences in skin color.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.