Saturday, April 18, 2009

Overheard at Wal-Mart

While standing still and checking items off my shopping the list the other day I happened to overhear an interesting conversation. No, I wasn't eavesdropping- because I wasn't intentionally listening. It was only later that I realized the full importance of what I'd overheard.

The speakers were both older males. They were conservatively dressed (no earrings or holes in their clothes). If I had to guess their religion I think it wouldn't be hard to accurately classify them. One of them was talking about a young family that he had recently visited. The wife was overwhelmed caring for her small children (apparently she had several) and her house. It was apparent to this man that the woman was overwhelmed because her house was a mess, her children had dirty faces, her lawn wasn't mowed, and the car had dirt on it too.

In response the the first man's concerns the second man responded by affirming that this family had been active in their church in the past, but currently did not regularly attend. The first man really wanted to gather ideas for how he could help this family. The second man told him that the best way to provide assistance was to emphasize how important church attendance was. He elaborated by stating that obviously the husband was not acting properly in his capacity as the religious head of his household. The wife was not performing her duties well because she was not as involved in church as she should be. If only she would spend more time praying and in service to her family- everything would look up.

This was about the time I finished updating my shopping list and moved on. I'm not sure what the concerned man who started the conversation said in reply. I hope he told the first man that this family would be better able to function (and come to church and devotion to God) if people could provide some sort of relief for the overwhelmed mother (and possibly her husband- I don't know his story at all). I hope both those men realized that young mothers (especially when dealing with more than one child under the age of five) actually require sleep before they can efficiently do anything. I also hope that the second man- the one who thought the family was having problems because they weren't attending church regularly enough- I hope that he has at some point had to perform all the functions of his day with one hand tied behind his back and one leg chained to a thirty pound rock that goes everywhere with him (including the bathroom). 


Mrs. B. Roth said...

This made me smile. Probably it shouldn't have, but it did.

And, in my very own silly life, when I was not actively attending church on a regular basis, life WAS much harder (and that was BEFORE the monkeys). As much as I complain about the time and energy commitments of church, I agree with guy #2.

It's not something one can explain or anyone would really believe if they hadn't lived it (and maybe it's not true for everyone). I truly TRULY believe that regular church attendance makes my life easier in a million little ways, daily prayer, too. And, thinking less about my poor, overworked, tired, pathetic self and actually TRYING to make my family's lives easier and happier does, surprisingly, help a lot. AND having just cleaned out my car and washed it, having just mowed the lawn; each little thing makes a little difference and it adds up to a lot.

I believe in the Bible and I believe that blessings are given based on obedience to the commandments therein. In my life, when I keep the Sabbath Day holy, things may not go perfectly, but when I go see Titanic on the Sabbath, my car car gets stuck ON, I go in anyway (the car was only worth like $600), the battery dies deader than Leonardo on an ice chunk and it costs me $70 for the locksmith to remove my key, then $130 to fix the turner on-er thingy. PLUS the popcorn and tickets. In essence, not going is worse and blessings withheld feels just like punishment.

Really, what the family needs IS a little help, a little love, someone to come watch kids while mom naps, do a set of dishes, sweep, vacuum, do a couple batches of laundry, maybe bring in a dinner, mow the lawn. BUT that is only a temporary solution to that feeling of overwhelm. I think the solution may very well be a support system and, coincidentally, one of the best organized, willing and able support systems I know of is church - and if you go regularly, people come to know you and POOF you have people you can call for help.

So you heard the conversation and seemed to take a little offense at the audacity of a guy saying maybe the family should go to church more, but I say ... maybe the family SHOULD go to church more. Either way, it probably wouldn't hurt.

(wanna fight about it? :))

Amy said...

I think it wasn't so much the suggestion to go to church more that is upsetting, as the implied belief that if the family was more moral and religious they wouldn't be having those difficulties, which is a load of crap.

Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in the power of prayer, I believe that religion is a great basis for your life, and I believe that it can provide wonderful solace and community during difficult time.

However bad things happen to very devout people and religion alone can't always fix or help. The community of the church can be a huge help, but there again I disagree with those men. I believe that the church should help those it can whether they attend regularly or not. In fact I believe that the outreach of the church means that we should help any family that we know needs help, especially if they don't attend the church.

The Lutheran church runs a program called Lutheran Social services where anyone can go for help. It could be in the form of food, emergency financial help, counseling, drug treatment, adoption help etc. You don't have to be a church member and there is no expectation that you will join the church. It is just a church outreach to help. The other important thing to me about these services is that these are trained individuals. Most are professional in their field and volunteer additional time to this program. So while they may use a religious base to the help, they also realize that sometimes people need more.

For a person who is clinically depresed they may need medicine along with the peace that faith can bring. For the abused wife she needs the practical help of a safehouse and legal services along with the knowledge that God loves her. For the unemployed person, they need the practical help of money and food, and maybe even job counceling along with the hope religion brings. What if that family is barely surviving for many possible reasons, they need real help, not judgemental criticism. How many times can you hear the critisim and opinions without any real help, before you give up?

One of the things that makes me the most disappointed in people is to hear "good Christians" judging who deserves help based on whether they go to church, instead of just helping as I believe God wishes.

Janet said...

Amy, you make me smile :-)

Brandy, I wasn't suggesting that church isn't a very valuable tool for improving your circumstances. What I heard is what Amy also felt was implied. A parent of young children (especially multiple young children) is overwhelmed because young children with their needs, messes, colds and coughs, dirty diapers, and crayons are... overwhelming.

I agree that being active in a church helps provide you with a support structure to call on in times of need. The feeling I got from the conversation I overheard was that this family had been active churchgoers in the not so distant past.

My thought is that it's possible they aren't active at the moment ... because they are overwhelmed. I truly don't think God is punishing them for not attending. I think God is providing the opportunity for the concerned man to serve this family by helping them in some way (and I don't mean helping like telling the lady to mow the lawn and go to church).

Of course this is all supposition because I don't know the people concerned or their history and experiences. I did think it was an interesting topic for philosophical discussion.

katie said...

I don't really have a comment, I just wanted to check in:) It's been awhile and I just got updated on your posts! I love the bag and the quilt. The sand looks like a blast. And, I'm so glad the PE situation got resolved....I hate PE too;)

Renae said...

While reading this I was thinking about what I must look like to someone who stops by.

Our house is usually a mess. Kids' stuff jumps out of the bedrooms no matter how many times we put it back. And I wonder do I seem overwhelmed?

Many days, yes, I do feel the pressure, but how much of that is external. Is it really important if our house is pristine? (I certainly hope not!)

For the most part, I've found peace in the chaos of family life. The laundry, dishes, and cleaning never end, but the little ones who live here are growing up faster than I imagined when I was bleary eyed from late night feedings.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room