Within one week of working with Anne*, she began to discuss her religion. She is a proud Christian, who attends church twice a week. The church she goes to is a bit of a monster in the area; one of those ritzy type churches that has a Starbucks, and “mission trips” held in Rome instead of, you know, where people actually need help. I knew it was important for me to get along with Anne, so I kept an open mind.
Anne has an interesting background. I’ve gotten to know her pretty well these last six months. A shortened biography will tell you this much: she was married to an abusive husband (emotionally and physically), she has three daughters, she left her husband. She worked her whole life as a waitress. She remarried the love of her life and they stayed married for ten years. He died suddenly of heart failure three years ago. She turned to God for help.
She has a large, very southern family, filled with all types of personalities. She has three adopted great grandchildren of a different race. She makes sure to inform you of this.
When I talk with Anne, I see great sadness in her eyes. I also see a silent bitterness about her, as though everything she’s ever felt wronged over has gone unsaid. I’ve grown to like her, and to feel compassion for her. She’s almost seventy years old, and she has spent her life being hurt over and over again. And although some of it is her own doing, I feel empathetic and understand why a church might uplift her.
Around a week ago I was pretty distressed and shaken by a story I’d read online. A group of women and men in my age group had committed a serious and horrendous hate crime against two gay men; simply because they had witnessed them kissing. I was vocal about my disdain and shock over it. I just remember thinking, “I can’t believe people still feel this way.”
I guess that’s why Anne felt the need to preach over lunch yesterday. The most remarkable thing about her preaching is how she referred to them as “The Gays” … repeatedly. She went on and on about how they demoralize our country, and the final straw would be allowing to let them have the most sacred thing: marriage. She kept saying marriage should be between a man and a woman.
I stared at my soup. I could feel my heart sinking into my stomach. I knew I was going to say something but the words weren’t coming out. Finally, “Look, I hear you saying this but I’d rather you didn’t. You have a right to your opinon, but I have a pretty strong one myself. Let’s agree not to discuss it.”
A simple request. Nothing horrible, no stirring the controversy. No provoking.
I stayed quiet. Soup staring. Ready for her to rip me open a new one. She respectfully agreed.
I dreamed about Anne last night. Somehow she had gotten into a notebook I kept. She was furious, pointing out all of the things I had written about her. She cried. I woke up thinking it actually happened, despite the fact that there is no such notebook.
I think the most unsettling thing about Anne is the fact that she feels she is inherently good. She feels justified in her beliefs, and angry over them. There will be no changing her mind, there is zero compassion on her end. When she heard the story about the hate crime, did she feel anything?
I’m terrified for people who are Anti-Anything.
For closings sake, I plan on mustering the courage to continue to stand up for my beliefs, and hope that she continues to be respectful.
*name changed for privacy purposes