Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lessons learned when facebook turns ugly

Recently a friend of mine posted a photo she saw on her home health route. She is a therapist, working in a rural area. She often does this, and the last photo she posted, before the one that cause a stir on facebook, was a calf being born. The photo in dispute was a clothesline filled with several bras, ladies’ panties and two nightgowns. She wrote something like, “the things you see in home health.” Most people remarked about frozen underwear (it has been cold here) or said she was at their house, etc… No person, with the exception of one, pointed to the fact that the owner of the underwear could be poor with no other option. The fact he pointed this out was not a problem, but how he chose to point it out didn’t set well with others. He attacked my friend, saying she was OUT OF TOUCH among other things. He used a lot of caps, indicating screaming. Feeling the need to defend my friend, I responded that she was not OUT OF TOUCH and unknown to most, often provided material needs for her patients because they could not afford such items. This included not only medical equipment but food too. I used the phrase, “…she often eases their poverty.” I also stated many women hang their unmentionables to dry because the dryer takes a toll on the life and use of the elastic and delicate material. Keep in mind only delicate items were hanging on the line. The guy then turned on me saying I was probably wrong, and I should be ashamed of using the phrase “…eases their poverty.” He added …not to talk to him about poverty unless I had the basis to do so. I asked my friend if this guy grew up poor or was impoverished, and she said as far as she knew, quite the opposite. Because I’ve had a rough patch in my life I responded, “Family and friends helped me years ago when I needed it. They EASED my life in many ways. They have nothing to be ashamed of….so I don’t understand what you are saying.” After that I wrote to my friend, I knew she didn’t mean harm and others knew it too. I further stated the problem with the written word is, sometimes people interpret it with different meanings. My friend posted the people had a nice house and car.  She said, for all she knew they were better off than she is herself.

Long story short…he “unfriended” her, but still sent some strong emails her way. Needless to say, I was pretty put out, because I’ve known my friend for over 30 years. I felt he was unfair in judging her. It took some prayer to get me back on track. So today, after mulling it over, I realize this ended up being a positive. It reminded me of that time in my life when things weren’t so great. I wasn’t going to go hungry, because my family wouldn’t let that happen, but I wasn’t a stranger to creditors calling requesting their money. It took awhile to dig out of that hole, but along the way people helped ease my burden. Some made sure my children made it safely to school, because I had to be at work early in the morning. My parents bought me a washer and dryer, plus put a new roof on my house. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for all they’ve done. Guys I worked with, moved sand to my yard to help the grass grow, plus one repaired all the wood trim outside my house. They came when I locked my keys in my car and looked at any problems I had with it too. My neighbor and his son fixed my broken down lawn mower.  His wife took care of my children when I couldn't be home, because an emergency occurred. The list goes on and on. So today I’ve found myself reflecting on those who have helped me along the way. I can never express how thankful I am for their love and friendship or how much they mean to me. I do pray that God will bless them richly and keep them safe.

Furthermore, "poverty" is not a word to associate with shame. It is often defined as “a lack of need.” This can be material or spiritual. At times in life when I am spiritually impoverished, family and friends step forward to lift me up. Complete strangers have done the same. Mother Teresa often remarked that the wealthiest people may actually be the poorest. There is so much truth in this, because those who lack the material see what is really important. It is not the number of shoes I have in my closet, but it is how I relate to those in my life and those I meet along the way.

So from this unpleasant encounter, thanksgiving and beauty has thrived. What shame is there in easing someone’s poverty? After all of these years, I recognize those who helped me, simply reflected the light of Christ. May I learn from their example, as they have learned from His.