Risk Love

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It’s hard to tell exactly what happened when, but in the few days before Christmas an incident happened inside a J.C. Penny department store in Louisville, Kentucky that was caught on video and went viral.

In the video a knocking-on-elderly (KOE) white woman can be heard making degrading comments to two customers in line who appear to be Hispanic. A clerk behind the counter asks the KOE white woman to kindly watch her language, but the tirade continues.

After someone else in line posted a video of the KOE white woman’s rant on social media, the video was shared thousands of times. I won’t dignify the video by posting it. The mall where the incident occurred has since issued a statement condemning the KOE’s behavior. Mall officials have also stated that KOE is permanently banned from the mall.

Even the mayor of Louisville is quoted as saying, “I am sad and disappointed to see conduct like what happened at the mall … when one person so dehumanizes another human being.”

A day or so after the incident a little more was revealed about the event. Apparently the woman who was at the counter paying for her items had a friend with her. It seems the friend left the line to grab a few more items from the store and when the friend returned she added her items to the woman at the counter’s items. The cashier continued to ring up the combined items and bag them. It was then that KOE went bonkers.

We’ve all been there, right?

We’ve been in line ourselves and forgotten something and had to make the difficult decision: do we run for the item, send one of our kids, or get out of line, grab the item and then get back in line, this time maybe at the end of an already established line. It’s a tough spot to be in. All of those are a tough spots to be in.

It’s also a frustrating thing to be in KOE’s position. All she wanted to do was purchase her items and get on her merry way. She didn’t expect to be held up while a couple of other customers got their collective act together.

We get it, we’ve all been on all sides of this situation: 1) the one who forgot an item, 2) the one who got out of line to retrieve an item and 3) the one who was ticked off because someone else was holding up the line while they got their act together.

Why do I even dignify this situation with space on my blog? Thanks for asking. I posted this article for several reasons.

Some members of my Adult Spiritual Faith Formation team are entertaining the possibility of sponsoring, along with our Outreach team, a workshop on how to de-escalate heated situations such as what happened in Louisville.

Other innocent customers who were in line at the J.C. Penney store when the KOE angry white woman reached into the worst parts of her being and unleashed on those other two women all of the racial hatred she had bottled up inside her for only God knows how long stood by and said nothing. NOTHING. They said NOT ONE WORD. Customer after customer after customer stood in line and silently let that angry women proudly unleash her furor.

What if someone else in line had participated in a workshop empowering them on how to love everyone stuck in that situation enough to deescalate the tension in that store? Might the angry white woman have calmed down or backed down or held her tongue? We’ll never know. All of those other customers were victims too.

For those two Hispanic women, if they had seen another person in line coming to their aid, maybe they would have felt less isolated and afraid and embarrassed. Again, we’ll never know.

But doing nothing doesn’t quite seem like the right response. Doesn’t quite seem like what Jesus would do.

If I’d have been in that store, do I know if I would have gotten involved? I don’t know. I’d like to think I would have done something … but what “something” I do not know. I’ve not been through the training.

We never know what we’ll do when the rubber hits the road. I bring all of this up to let you know once we find the right facilitator, then we’ll sponsor the workshop. Perhaps once we’re trained and empowered to intervene on behalf of someone else being bullied, then we’ll stick our toe in that very messy situation and risk love.

I’ll let you know when we find a qualified facilitator and when we’ll offer the workshop.

What we do know is that if Jesus had been in that same situation – he would have risked loving all of the people involved to get involved. Any other response would have been uncharacteristic of Jesus. Period.

In the meantime may we all risk loving the other people in our lives … to sort of give us the courage we’ll need to love the other folks we have not yet met.

As sisters and brother of Christ, we’re called to risk love day in and day out.

To love our Moms and Dads.

To love our sisters and brothers.

To love our neighbors who live near us.

To love our global neighbors far and wide.

To love our neighbors who sit next to us in church each week.

To love our neighbors who never enter our church but may well worship God in other ways.

To love our co-workers.

To love the other kids who attend our schools.

To love those who hurt us.

To love those who betray us.

To love those who threaten us.

To love those we know and those we may never know.

To love our enemies. Dang. Not so easy, right; but that’s what we’re called to do. Just like Jesus.

Praying for you. Thank you for praying for me.

Peace friends, 

Chuck

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8 Comments

  • Rose says:

    Great wisdom – I have found that reaching out to people just in unexpected ways at unexpected times really can make a difference. One thing I’ve started doing on a regular basis is watch for the person with 2/3 items behind my large order – I always let them go ahead – did it just this morning at the Safeway to a young man and then asked how his Christmas was. There was an older lady ahead of him alone with a bunch of bags, and I heard him offer to carry her stuff out for her – she declined; I offered to get her a cart and she declined saying she was fine but I thought how my gesture faciilated the young man’s gesture – good way to start the New Year.

  • Janet Rife says:

    Thanks for this post – very helpful. May share it with both of my pastors, one at Nativity Catholic and one at St. Andrew’s Episcopal. A workshop on these issues would be an excellent idea. Hope everybody saw the article in today’s Washington Post, front page, “Meeting again after a moment of violence”, describes a meeting (and a reconciliation) between the black man who was assaulted at a Trump rally earlier this year by a 79 year old white man, self-described cowboy. Not a perfect story, BUT an example of what is possible. Congratulations to the Post for providing the story.

    I do agree with another post that the KOE designation is NOT helpful. I happen to be 77 years old.

  • Marianne says:

    Verbal judo. I could definitely use this training. Maybe I’d fight less with my husband and be more able to comfort my kids.

  • Marge says:

    Just wanted to comment on the term “KOE.” It was a term new to me, but one I am not crazy about. In our efforts to point out the disturbing way this person unleashed racist and ethnic comments, we categorize older white women in an unflattering and condescending way. This is not to say her behavior is defensible. Thanks for a blog that is always thought-provoking.

  • Barbara says:

    A similar situation happened to me at a grocery store, the woman checking out was confused about a lot of things, the clerk was in training, called for the Manager who came but had to straighten things out, slowly. The woman in front of me was beside herself, had to pick up someone, her phone dead, no remarks about the person but was clearly disgruntled. I offered her my phone, said I didn’t mind waiting. The people behind me said they weren’t in any hurry either and we kind of empathized with the woman in line. She got to the check out and turned around and said sorry to people in line and left. I spoke to the cashier about stressful times and we all went on our way. I hope I would have spoken up at the mall for the Hospanic women.

  • Danielle Klorig says:

    What a great way to start off the new year. Thanks for your wise words.

  • bonnie fairbank says:

    I have been there just recently at Walmart there, was a man who got mad that someone was waiting for his daughter to return with an item to paid for when another young man started to make comments and I look and thought for a moment thinking I am in the middle of the line so I looked back at the young man and said, to him you know I have plenty of time and I will trade places with you and it will make your turn go faster we traded and he stopped the conversation and he thank me. and when I got up to cashier she thank me I did not like waiting in the line any more then he did but is was a small young person that the father was waiting for to pay the cashier. Maybe if I had not done that it would have become more verbal it was not that long to wait, we are all getting so used to having everything done so quickly, we have. No patience

    • Zoe A. Wyman says:

      Bonnie, I love your solution! You are so right that we all are searching for instant gratification these days. We all need to step back and “smell the roses” so to speak! Taking a little extra time is far better than causing stress to everyone around us! We never know what the recipient of the rant might be dealing with!

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