Guard Dignity. Save Pride.
One of my favorite church songs of late is Peter Scholtes' They'll Know We Are Christians. You've probably heard it. It has a sort of native-American-slash-nineteen-sixties-Jesus-music vibe. Its call for the church's internal unity and external love gives me hope. It's push for boiling down evangelism to confessing that God is here. Man, that's good stuff. But that third verse...what's that about "guarding dignity" and "saving pride"? Uh, I thought pride was a bad thing. We'll come back to that. For now, how about a story?
Many of CCC's regularly scheduled events take place at the Friendship House on Orange Street. However, our neighborhood is blessed to have a handful of venues, each suited for different types of events. So a year or so ago, we purchased a trailer to help mobilize our efforts. We outfitted it with a locking toolbox to keep tie-downs and such onboard, and soon we were hauling tables and snow cone supplies and propane grills with ease.
We also became the go-to trailer folks. You know that phenomenon where one of your friends gets a pickup, and then all their friends are suddenly reminded of the stuff they need to borrow a pickup to haul...It was like that, but with a trailer. (After all, this is West Texas; doesn't everyone already have a pickup???)
Last week, though, a well-intentioned neighbor & friend borrowed this trailer and apparently forgot to use the all-important tie-downs. A bump was hit. A load shifted. And BAM! The toolbox was crushed like Darla's can of Shasta. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it was crumpled to the point that the lid won't close.
I wasn't able to answer the phone when he called to confess, but his voicemail--despite a total lack of details--made his regret clear. "I, uh, I messed up pretty bad. Just--just call me back." I was actually relieved to find out that the mishap only damaged the toolbox, rather than the tires or the frame. A trailer is still a trailer without a toolbox.
When I drove over to his place to see the damage for myself, he offered to take off the toolbox and have a friend of his work the dents out to make it usable again. He could even repaint it. Hmm, would that even be worth it?
Here's what was going through my head [in a far less organized fashion]. Ok, I can choose to...
- Just say, "No, that's ok. I can take care of it." I'd feel better about this if I handle it. After all, if you want something done right... Let him off the hook. If I can't fix it, I can replace it. Be INDEPENDENT.
- Just say, "No thanks, it's not really a big deal." I don't want to have to keep up with the status of these repairs. That's more headache than it's worth. I'd rather just do without the toolbox. Besides, I wouldn't want to strain the relationship over this. I know he's short on cash; what will he have to pay his friend to fix this? Let him off the hook. Be a PEOPLE-PLEASER.
- Just say, "Ya, know what? That'd be great if you could get it fixed." This was his mistake, and he wants to make it right. Why shouldn't he? There's no rush, no need to make sure it gets done a specific way. He feels bad about it, so let him make it right. Acknowledge that he has the skills & resources to make things right. Be DIGNIFYING.
"Ya, know what? That'd be great if you could get it fixed," I said.
"Thank you," he responded, though I didn't understand why until he explained. "I know this isn't just y'all's trailer. You let other folks use it, too, so I feel like I let everybody down. A lot of people would've said, 'Nah, don't worry about it, it's fine.' But you're letting me make it right. Thanks."
I am not making this up. That was his response.
I chose the option that many would've balked at for being "uncharitable" or "unmerciful." In other scenarios, it might not have been the right call. But this guy--especially because he is often short on cash--had grown tired of asking for charity and mercy. Instead, he asked me for a chance to be treated as equal, to be seen as responsible. He asked for dignity. This is the work we should be about.
[Verse 3:] We will work with each other We will work side by side We will work with each other We will work side by side And we'll guard each man's dignity And save each man's pride
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love
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