“Harry Potter is of the devil, and we will not be glorifying sorcery in our house,” she said, standing there in front of me wearing a Booneville Blue Devil Homecoming T-shirt with the clear image of Satan, emblazoned on her left breast, smiling over our conversation. I made no comment and put away the book my son and I had been reading to avoid further theological exposition. Today, when I think of the often-ironic judgments people make, that seminal moment from years ago comes to mind.
Mostly, I consider myself the ultimate optimist, but right now I’m down on people.
Last week, I took a business trip to St. Louis to meet with a long-time customer about a problem they had with equipment our company supplied to a remote area of Montana. Without going into long, boring detail, I’ll simply say that two separate work crews (that we paid for and sent to Montana) discovered that our customer had installed a 70’ long conveyor, designed to unload railroad cars filled with cement, with an 8” sag in the middle. This misalignment had damaged our equipment, without any doubt. Nevertheless, Quail Ridge Engineering’s general manager and I sat there across the table from their company president who told us that if we wanted to continue to do business with them we would have to “share” in their rework costs to the tune of thousands of dollars, beyond what we had already spent fixing the problem their crew created. The three engineers who sat with him, having fully assessed the situation, looked down at the table and wouldn’t make eye contact. My wife, the lovely Rothann, told me last week that she liked how I wasn’t judgmental of people. Well, some days are better than others, my dear.
A friend and co-worker Eddie Flurry, another Booneville Blue Devil, has a saying he uses around our office: “The first liar has the advantage.” What he means is that the first party to get their story on record in any potential conflict, whether true or false, has stacked the playing field in their favor for the arguments that will follow. The second party to the debate is on the defensive from the get-go. Sadly, Eddie’s poignant point comes into play multiple times each week at QRE.
It’s universal. Church goers are not exempt from the failures of the human condition. In fact, many of the most memorable arguments of my lifetime have occurred in church. Thankfully, I’ve personally only been in on a couple. I vividly remember from my boyhood an old church pillar at Asbury Methodist standing in the aisle in the middle of a service, and loudly asking his wife, “You coming?” She wasn’t coming and continued to look straight ahead, as he walked out in protest of our preacher’s wife being allowed to speak from the pulpit. My personal claim to infamy may be that I was the moderator of a boisterous church business meeting when the phrase “bird poop” was officially entered into the minutes of the First Baptist Church. I lamented this at home, and the lovely Rothann consoled, “Don’t worry about it. Who reads the minutes anyway?” She’s a good wife.
A decade ago, I yelled “Why don’t you just shut up?!” at the other team’s preacher, who kept on chattering anyway, as he shot his free throws in the church basketball game we were losing. I think they threw me out – of the game and the beautiful Christian Life Center in Tupelo where it was being played. One of their deacons confronted me with “That kind of thing is so very disappointing,” as I walked off the court. “Well, I’m disappointed in you!” I replied, for no apparent reason, and slammed the door on the way to my car. I stopped playing church basketball that night. I have regrets of my own. The story of the end of my church sports career is one of the few I’m willing to reveal.
I guess I’ve told all that just to say this: We’re all of us in this together, so let’s try to do better by each other.
Always end with optimism.