Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Does My Dog Have Against Martha Stewart?

Yesterday the family went out to do some errands -- silly little things like exchanging or returning, dropping items off for repair, things I usually try to get to through the week. With fuel prices steadily rising once again though, I had saved up a few stops for a more distant part of the county; now it was time to care of those things.

Scott had gone out a little earlier in the morning, stepping back through the front door with his usual, "Every nut in PA is out on the road today!" (He grew up in Jersey, and has little tolerance for Pennsylvania drivers -- IMAGINE THAT?!) Knowing his flair for the dramatic, I responded with prodigious interest, "uh-huh." I was to find, later, it was true. I cannot count the number of "unsignaled" spontaneous lane changes, illegal u-turns, and brake riders. Aloud, we wondered where these people got their licenses and why they thought their actions were of no consequence to the hoards of drivers sharing the road with them.

When we reached our first stop, I watched as a woman took her empty shopping cart and placed it ever so carefully between two parked cars, and drove away. Now perhaps, this was this middle-aged woman's first try at the shopping cart thing; maybe she's never watched as a cart has savagely taken out the side panel of a new vehicle once its gained untold momentum through the "salt flats" of overflow parking. Maybe she's new here -- her alien ship spent the entire night hovering over some remote part of the county, dropping shoppers. No doubt a part of the worldwide economy stimulus program -- an exchange with some distant planet for the "compassionate" judge who released the Lockerbie bomber.

At another store, a "helpful sales associate" barked at Scott and Joe that the purchase Joe was making was going to "destroy his game system in six months". A moment later he scoffed at Maddy and I for "looking for the Burger King having dinner in McDonald's" -- we were looking for a DS game in a bin that was, apparently, full of Playstation Games. (Will the madness ever stop?!) I chalked it up to the fact that this 30-something works 34 hours a week for minimum wage at a video gaming store, and lives with his mother and her dead husband's "apparition."

Our final stop began easily, scooting into a spot in the farthest reaches of the parking lot, leisurely strolling toward the store, our group staying safely and innocuously together, giggling and talking. A woman walked just seven or eight feet ahead of us, turning around only once to see who was behind her. As we approached the entrance, I reached out to grab the door from her only to find she had let it go; it silently fell flush before my grasp. Door #2 -- same scenario. I wanted to declare, "No, it's OK! I got it!" but I know this is why God gave me children -- to keep my big mouth and sometimes antisocial attitude in check. Once I'd just about raised my "first set" and my disposition hadn't improved, He gave me the second set as insurance I'd watch my p's and q's. (At this rate, I'm going to be parenting children well into my nineties).

This morning I was letting the dogs out after breakfast. Tinkerbell did her usual constitutional in the middle of the yard; Bishop, however, went straight to the barbecue grill and lifted his leg on the gray canvas cover -- a Martha Stewart exclusive. Aside from the fact that this dog keeps relieving himself on my patio, requiring me to scrub with bleach and a broom in ninety-two degree heat with the eighty-six percent humidity that is vaporizing our part of the country right now -- I wonder, "What does he have against Martha Stewart?" We have a tree, we have potted plants, we have two vehicles with eight stock-still, amenable wheels just begging for a good soaking, but Martha? Why her? What did she ever do to warrant such tactless consideration?
Oddly enough I thought back to yesterday and "all those nuts." We've all been wronged, we've all wronged others. Sometimes there are deep-seated motives, sometimes we are self-absorbed, sometimes there is intent. And sometimes, like Bishop and Martha, there is no excuse except there is no excuse. We just do it -- whether out of habit or lack of focus, or maybe from sheer ignorance. Now, that's not to say Martha must continue to suffer such indignity, and Bishop is permitted to persist in such disgusting behavior, but none of us is above doing the wrong thing. None of us can say we are better than a door slammer, or cart abandoner, or no-signaler, and sometimes the anger we feel when we are the victims of such outrage, stems from thinking that we are. We are sinful, imperfect, mortal beings (Romans 3:23) who desperately need God's forgiveness (I John 1:9) and the forgiveness of one another (Col. 3:13). We all engage in behavior that is not only displeasing to God, but may strongly affect those around us. Today's society seems to capitalize on victimization, and fix itself on ensuring our "persecuted" remain trophies for our crusade, no matter how ungodly the cause. We turn every infraction or oversight into some deliberate attack on our faith, our politics, our ethnicity, even our choice of vehicle. We have become a pampered, self-righteous, defensive people.
II Chronicles 7:14 is God's clear, concise plan for action. It starts within each of us -- humility, repentance -- and culminates in the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our land. Imagine a world where smiling people consider others before themselves, where buggies are carefully stored in the cart corral and "helpful sales associates" are so sure you will return their courtesy that they are truly unapologetically helpful. Imagine, if you dare, a world where a simple pitbull and a homemaking icon can get along...

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