I meant to write "People-People, Part Deux" awhile ago but it turned out that I didn't get a chance to. Recent adventures, while rife with humor, gave me pause for thought...
The other night my friends "Molly" and "Jill" had a hankering to go sing Karaoke. In our two-horse town there are only a couple places to do this: in the Bar/Lounge of one of the hotels and at this - shall we say - quaint little dive where I fully spent the whole two hours expecting a bar-fight to erupt at any moment. Not to mention that "Jill's" observation of the bar-folk was that they all seemed to have some sort of nervous system disorder due to the way they were dancing.
How does this relate to engaging in community, you ask? Let me tell you. When we walked into the dive, my pal "Molly" felt right at home. "Jill" did not necessarily feel quite so much at home but she was friendly and down-to-earth nonetheless - it also helped that some of her family reunions resembled the crowd we were mingling amongst. And then there was me - the designated driver who did not have any of the advantages of alcohol to carry me through. I was hooked at the hip to "Jill" and let me just say that I was as stiff as a board. It was not helping that we were being flanked by short, googly-eyed guy who was making lewd references to sex, something about nipple-twisting, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (the band). It was a good thing his speech was too slurred for us to understand the full scope of his hopes for the evening. We finally managed to elude him - only to later find ourselves faced with gangly tattoo guy whose lewd references included mention to genital size as well as a high level of f-word usage as an attempt to impress us with his sexual prowess and wishes for the near future with either of us. I could not have imagined a night of ecstasy with either of these hapless fellows even if I had imbibed upon an entire bottle of any sort of alcoholic beverage. It is beyond my creative powers to envision such a thing.
It was actually a blessed relief to sit and chat with Kyle - the young fellow who first introduced us to the quaint dive. At least all he did was show me pictures of his three boys and then tried to give me his phone number to which I kindly demurred that I was married, and thus he said that he was sorry for trying to give me his number and that he had been married but that his ex-wife was a "f-ing, cheating whore *sorry* but she cheated on me." All this, and he could not have more than 23 years old. Poor guy.
I realized something about myself though, and it is that I am a snob. When I described my impression of the place I used some unfavorable words about a certain neighborhood, I am ashamed to say, and it's made me realize that no amount of saying that I have nothing against those people is true if I can say something like that. It's like when people make references to those people who live "on the other side of the tracks". I don't want to be someone who refers to others in a derogatory manner and these were the words that came to me at the realization of my snobbery:
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
You can probably guess who said those words. (Jesus, in Luke 6:43-45) I can't deny the truth of those words. That was the overflow of my heart and it was contempt. Granted, most of my contempt was aimed at being treated like a piece of meat which is something that I utterly despise; I cannot stand the user/consumer approach when it comes to sex. My contempt would be just as great for a Manhattan-ite, or a Londoner, or any guy, anywhere, treating me like a conquest. On the other hand, I was at a bar at 1:30 in the morning amongst a bunch of people so blubbering drunk that the bartender was refusing to serve some of them drinks. In other words, if I actually expect to be treated like the lady that I consider myself to be when in that scenario then I am completely out of my gourd.
The whole thing made me realize that it is absolutely essential to separate the behavior from the person. Yes people are responsible for their choices; however, a person's worth is not based upon their behavior. It is a broken person who pursues others in such a way as to not even care who they are but to only want sex from them. It's a broken person who tells you more than once how "f-ed up" he was as a kid and how much trouble he got into, and who is now alone, without much support as the father of three small children. I don't need to go on but I can say that I saw a lot of loneliness and misplaced longing in the eyes of some of those people.
We are all broken at some level; we are each in different places as far as healing and restoration go. Some people are only in for more brokenness due to their inability to make better choices. I found out that I don't want to engage in community with someone who is that broken because I know that I can't trust that person. Even if there is prudence in that, it still shouldn't stop me from behaving in a compassionate manner,at the very least, instead of behaving like a snob.
It would also help not to go to bars at 1:30 AM when people are at their worst but are thinking it is their best.