Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Dealing with Difficult People

There's a person who has been coming to our Wednesday food-giveaway program. A month or so ago, he broke one of the cardinal rules - he got too friendly with a young girl, wouldn't leave her alone, and allegedly attempted to get her into his car. When the leadership found out, they escorted him off the property. The police were called. A report was filed.

Two weeks later, when he showed up again, he was asked to leave and never come back.

Ever since he's been calling the church, demanding to speak to "the minister." I've attempted to use healthy communication skills - "I can't do anything, sir. The leadership made their decision, and I can't go tell them to change their minds. You have to speak to them directly." I cannot and will not be drawn into the middle, becoming the third point of their triangle. I can only seek to bring the various parties together.

Yesterday he came into the church, demanding to meet with me. And he was angry. Very angry. It's rare that I'm sitting in a meeting thinking "what are my escape options here," but this time I was. Maybe I read the situation wrong, but still, when you confront that kind of anger, it's tough to predict what will happen. I think he was hoping to get to them through me, but since that wasn't going to happen he stormed off, saying he'd come back to meet with the leader of the ministry. Which he did. And they listened to him, and then politely asked him to leave and never come back again.

Now we'll see if that's the end of it.

Maybe it is. That was just him on the phone telling me he's done with us. And he seemed much calmer. Perhaps this little chapter is over.

But the truth remains, whenever you reach out to "the least of these" you take them as they come, not as you wish they would be. And sometimes that means addictions, anger, anti-social behavior. Sometimes it means danger. It also puts you in the middle of their squabbles - sometimes people make accusations against others solely out of spite. I'm not implying that happened here, but sometimes it does.

Lately Doug has been saying "They aren't bad people, they're just doing the best they can with the tools they have." And that's how they come to us. While some of them probably are bad people, some are just eccentric, some never learned communication theory, some of them are socially still junior highers, some are probably demon possessed. And some are happy, joyous, pleasant to be around. You get them all.

But, in the end, I'll gladly wrestle with the problems if it means we can offer food and clothing to the Least of These. I'd rather be on the ground here meeting people with real needs than be trying to convince the rich that they ought to sell their SUV and buy a hybrid. Maybe that's just me, and it means this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

I went out last night to get some firewood; it was dark. And I thought "you know, if he wanted revenge for his perceived slight, it's awfully dark out here. . ." But then I remembered that my life is in the Lord's hands, and that I'm safe as long as he's watching over me.


Karla said...

what does that mean, exactly? that you are safe as long as God is watching over you? My kids just watched Veggie Tales, (God is bigger than the bogey man), and I can't help but cringe a little when i hear them learning that they are "safe" because God is bigger and stronger than everything....
because the world is still fallen and little kids still die.
I am never sure what to tell them when they ask me if they will be safe (at night, in the car, etc), because who really knows for sure...

ya know?

Britany said...

Keep up the good work.