Saturday, February 8, 2014

Affordable Generosity

"We can afford to be generous!"

It's one of the phrases you'll hear occasionally around our home.  I got offended and had the opportunity to rehearse it for myself just this week.

Yes, someone hurt my feelings - in a rather BIG way.  I left their company shackled to an iron ball of offense that weighed at least fifty pounds.

I'd made an appointment to meet with a lady about a business matter that needed attention.  Her office is in her home so we planned for me to arrive there at  2:00 the following afternoon.

I rang her doorbell at 2:01 while congratulating myself on my punctuality!  (Have you heard the phrase......."Pride goes before a fall" ?)

No response.

I waited.  Then rang the doorbell again.

Nothing.

Just as I prepared to knock loudly, a man yanked open the door.

He felt no need to make eye contact nor pick up the mail littering their grand entry.  He didn't introduce himself nor did he bother to ask my name.  He offered no chair, no apologies, no instruction.  He simply turned on his heel and threw this information over his shoulder, "My wife'll be right here."

I carefully stepped into the foyer, simultaneously closing the massive door behind me and picking my way over the mail strewn in my path.  Silence stood with me on the magnificent tile floor.

It became apparent that choosing a place to wait was completely up to me.  So I slipped over to the dining room chair closest to the door and sat down. 

After some time, the business woman finally came swirling into the foyer.  I stood to greet her.  We shook hands; exchanged introductions and she walked away - toward her office.  I was left to suppose that she intended for me to follow her.

Short Aside:  If you are at all familiar with Southern Culture, you are already appalled!  No one comes into the home of a true Southerner without being warmly greeted; offered refreshment; encouraged to take the most comfortable seat; immediately engaged in conversation even if said conversation is of no particular benefit.   For us, it's all about making the guest feel "at home."   

Now back to the story.

T.B.W.  (The Business Woman) never stopped talking - about herself and her business success.  She strode toward her desk, took her chair, pushed back her hair, stared up at me and sighed, "Now what do you need?"

I was left to stand on the opposite side of her desk feeling like a child who'd been summoned to the principal's office for disciplinary action.  Because that was something I never actually experienced in school, I stood there dumbstruck.

But suddenly, I came to my senses.  "Wait a minute!  I'm a potential customer.  I'm doing YOU the favor here.  And besides, even if you're rude and don't want to acknowledge the Southern Hospitality Code, I'm NOT rude.  I DO know the Code.  I'm fifty-five years old, for pity's sake and I deserve a little bit of respect here!"

So in the most polite sounding voice I could muster through my irritation I said, "May I take a seat?"

T.B.W. expressed a slight irritation at being asked and said, "Well, sure." Then waved toward another chair.

Needless to say, our conversation was terse!  And lasted only as long as was completely necessary!  She spoke in condescending verbiage and used body language designed to intimidate.  Because I deal with people every day of my life, I knew exactly what she was doing and her behavior only fueled my irritation.

In my not-so-humble opinion, there is never a reason to intentionally make someone feel badly!  Life is tough enough.  We should do everything in our power to encourage and cheer for one another!

I got out of there just as quickly as possible.  And it brought me no great joy to know that I would need to encounter T.B.W. at least once more to conclude this little matter.

Anger doesn't overcome me very often but it's safe to say I Was Fuming as I drove away!

Frank got home too late to be regaled with my story of suffering and injustice.   So I had to wait until the next day to share with a trusted friend.  And by that time, the offense had grown to epic proportions!

My friend listened attentively.  She offered commiseration born of having encountered T.B.W. on several previous occasions.  We soundly condemned T.B.W. for her total disregard of the Southern Hospitality Code.  We shook our heads in utter disbelief!  We clucked our tongues, sighed deeply and crossed our arms in finality.  Obviously, there was little to no hope for T.B.W.  Such a shame.

But you know what?  I didn't feel one bit better about the matter after unloading on my friend.  In fact, I felt somewhat worse.

Back in my office trying to get some work done, I finally had to stop and sit quietly for a few minutes.  The Heavenly Father had a little something to say about my sad situation and I needed to listen.

First off, I know full well that most people who intentionally try to intimidate others do so because of their personal insecurities.  T.B.W. didn't see herself as superior to me, she has built a polished shield of intimidation to use as a cover for her own struggle.

The Father reminded me that the rudeness of her husband was (most likely) habitual.  And that I probably got a small taste of how he regards T.B.W. on a daily basis.

Finally, I thought back to the grandeur of her residence.  Every element spoke of being designed to impress.  But there was no warmth.  There were no pictures of family.  Nothing to indicate a welcoming, joyful atmosphere at all.

And then came the gentle reminder, "Sheri, you can afford to be generous!"

My husband is thoughtful.  My children and grandchildren pile into my home routinely, giving our residence both the appearance and feeling of warmth.  While I'm covered up with imperfections, I don't have enough time to dwell on them and give them power over me.  And my dealings with people are usually so encouraging and satisfying that I don't even see my work as a job at all.  It's a calling.  A privilege.

"Yes, Father.  I can afford to be generous!"  As I admitted that aloud, I also heard (in my heart) an unlocking sound.  The ball and chain of offense dropped from my ankle.  Suddenly, I started feeling much better.

The Father has been so very generous with us: salvation, forgiveness, patience, long-suffering.  We can certainly afford to be generous with those around us!

Perhaps you'll want to invest in some "Affordable Generosity" today.  If you listen carefully, I'll bet you hear that same unlocking sound as offense falls off!  It's a glorious feeling.  Take it from someone who knows!










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