Monday, September 13, 2004

Have A Blessed Day

My coworkers and I are thinking about writing a book. We'll call it, How I Almost Lost My Faith and Committed Murder Working At a Christian Bookstore.

Chapter 1: Don't Make Me Take Your Oxygen Tank

As the Christmas season approaches (it begins in September for retailers) a variety of Christmas related charities come to the forefront. An endeavor my store supports is Operation Christmas Child, which is run by Samaritan's Purse. Basically, you fill a bunch of shoe boxes with items geared toward a specific type of child (such as a boy age 5-8). These boxes are wrapped and given to needy children around the world so they can have a gift at Christmas.

You can use your own shoe boxes, or you can use some of the pre-decorated boxes provided by Samaritan Purse. My store agreed to be a distribution point for these boxes. We were given 3000 on Saturday morning, and they were all gone by noon even though there was a limit of 300 for each individual/church.

One of my regular customers, a mean woman we shall call "Bonnie" called when we opened to see how many boxes we had. She was told 3000. She first became enraged when we told her we could not hold any for her. It was first come first serve as per our agreement with Samaritan Purse. She was amazed we couldn't hold any for her, "an old, frail woman who was one of our best customers."

Bonnie, you're an old, obese former chain-smoker with an oxygen tank and a grudge against the world. You are not one of our best customers. When you enter the store, we assume we are being punished by God. Nothing is ever good enough for you. You are verbally and emotionally abusive to the staff, but you assume a nice, "It's not you're fault," at the end of a tirade will make everything better. People leave the church because of jerks like you.

Anyway, she comes into the store around 2:30 and demands shoe boxes. I politely inform her we are completely out. The floodgates of hatred opened up. It would have been more fun to run naked through the Mall of America the day after Thanksgiving than to listen to Bonnie tell me what a miserable shit I was.

I stood there and smiled while she went on and on. I can take verbal abuse; I played Little League. What frustrated me were the sadistic fantasies I had about tormenting Bonnie. At one point she asked me what I was going to do to fix the situation. "I don't know, slap you with a Bible," I wondered to myself. Then she wanted to know what she was supposed to do. "Go play in traffic."

I'm really not a violent person. More than anything I was furious at myself for the hatred toward Bonnie boiling over in my soul. I wish I could say is she the only cranky customer I ever have. The truth is, most of my day I spend trying to massage the egos of condescending suburbanites who spit on my very existence. It's enough to make a man an athiest.

And we wonder why people think religion is a tool of oppression and hatred. We treat our dogs better than our own Christian brothers and sisters. Glory glory hallelujah.

10 comments:

naomi said...

Ben, I feel your pain. I didn't work Christian retail but I was a summer missionary for Child Evengelism Fellowship for three summers in college, traveling around British Columbia teaching vacation bible school and/or five day clubs. The children were great and most host families were wonderful.

However, the side of Christian "fellowship" I saw left my college aged self dreaming up ways to call down plagues upon some less than kind and charitable individuals. Most days I was happy to be able to get out of Dodge at the end of each week.

There was one pastor's wife who insisted I was 12. She treated me like I had no training, had just become a believer myself and was not to be trusted with the children. Um, lady, highly trained daughter of a church planter here! Hello! Knock, knock, anyone with common sense home? They don't make us go through supervision, background checks and drill those rules into us for nothing. Just because I looked younger than my mature 19 years of age. Gah!

Okay, not quite as bad as your lovely experience. You win.

Its so hard to love people and see the best in people when they abuse you, even if they have no clue that what they are doing is hurtful. It's even worse when we aren't in a position where we can say, "You know, what you're doing, it's hurtful. And while God calls me to love you, right now, I need to walk away because what you're doing is feeding the sin in me. So, I'm going to go remove the plank from my eye, and I suggest you go look in a mirror yourself. You might want some tweezers. Or the jaws of life."

Um, yeah, like I do that anyway.

So, I'm looking forward to that book, Ben. And if you want to kill and leave no trace, let me know. I'm researching some methodologies for the next book.

James said...

"Christians can be so heavenly conscious, that they are no earthly good." - Mike Warnke

I confess that on stress filled days, I have been on both sides of this argument. And as such, I offer my apologies. You shouldn't have to deal with such abuse and as Christians, myself included, we shouldn't be dishing it out.

Rouver said...

Nice writing. Abby J. forwarded us a link to your blog. Keep up the great work. I mean, you've now fallen into the category of 'you're here to entertain me' and I'd hate for you to disappoint me. :)

Ellen said...

I have a like/dis-like relationship with those shoeboxes you talk about. Having lived in a nominally Muslim country (Bosnia) for the last three years, the evangelical churches would pass out the boxes to neighborhood kids every year, and it was a great way to get to know the kids. However, the church I attended had a big stink one year when different families in the church began to fight about which among them got more boxes for their children and grandchildren. That, and the knowledge that my friends at another church had to put so much time into going meticulously through all the boxes to take out anything with a cross on it. Crosses have such a negative connotation, because of the war and the way that crosses were used as weapons of hate (Serb nationalists cut crosses into the backs of Muslim prisoners, etc.) Anyway, all that to say that if any of the shoeboxes had anything with crosses on them, they had to be removed, because the parents of the kids who got that box would never let them return to the church.

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