Saturday I needed to wash an oversized comforter and since this mission could be combined with some of my wife’s errands, I visited a small Laundromat out west of the city and stayed there for a couple of hours while cleaning the blanket. I was really pleased to see that I had the place all to myself; alone with a book and a couple of free hours. That’s a pretty nice way to spend an afternoon, right?
About thirty minutes into my delightful respite a man walked in. Actually, sauntered in might be a more accurate description.
I told the man hello and he mumbled something indecipherable to me. I returned to my book.
After he put his clothes in the washer I could sense him standing and staring at me. I chose to continue reading.
The staring not working, the man spoke: “Got a good book there?”
Looking up I said, “Yes. It’s one of those inspirational books you give to graduates and young people; filled with worldly wisdom tips for living a meaningful life.”
“Does it have Jesus Christ in it?” he inquired.
“Probably, but I haven’t run across him yet.” I answered.
“He’s the real deal you know?”
“Yes sir.” I said nodding my head and returning my attention to the book.
If the man was going to be there he was going to talk to me. He walked over to a bulletin board, started tapping on a notice of a county Caucus coming up, and then asked, “Are you going to this?”
“No I live in a different county.” I said hoping he would leave me alone.
“We are committee precinct leaders” (or something like that) he informed me and asked about my own political involvement.”
I basically told him I do not discuss politics or religion with people I do not know, and turned my attention back to the book, hoping he would take the hint.
He did not.
I will spare you the right-wing, mean spirited, separatist drivel he felt the need to share with me, but I will tell you that I am always astounded by the seeming inconsistency of someone who insists on sharing their love for Jesus Christ and their hatred for people of a different skin color, different religion, or different ideology within minutes of each other.
I wanted to be respectful of this man so I had a choice to make. I did not have the desire to try educating the man about the ground rules for being human, so I decided to utilize the opportunity to see if I could stay in-love while in the presence of someone who displayed no apparent understanding of that concept. I decided to shower him with love while I searched for any common ground, any area where I could agree with his vitriolic mentality.
I found it very challenging to avoid judgment, to remain in a loving state as this teacher shared one example after another of why we needed the Religious Right to be in charge of our country. While I was not completely successful at staying in-love throughout our face to face, I do take some solace in the fact that I was not provoked into responding with any emotion that resembled the anger this man has against our current president.
In fact, my lack of participation in his media, crooked-politician, and Mormon bashing rant must have finally frustrated him because he shut up and walked out. When he came back to retrieve his washed clothes he did not say anything to me except that he was “taking his marbles and going home.”
Later that evening I had the pleasure of watching the incredible film The Help. If you have not seen this movie I highly recommend it. There was one scene in the movie when a preacher, in Jackson, Mississippi, was delivering an impassioned sermon in which he encouraged his congregation to be courageous. I loved his declaration: “If you can love your enemy, you already have the victory.”
By this equation, my encounter with the Jesus-preaching hater was a victory, for me. In hindsight I really think he was hoping to pick a fight with me and believed, possibly by the title of the book I was reading, he had found a viable opponent. When I refused to engage him, failing to give the results he was pursuing, he gave up and walked away.
I did not emerge from this encounter feeling particularly victorious. I was somewhat disappointed that I could not stay in-love while this man spewed hatred. I do find some satisfaction that I did not react, in-kind, and that I did not allow his ugliness to disturb my calmness. I am pleased that I have grown that much, even though I still have a long way to go.