Tag Archives: Accountability

Sitting at Table or Serving?

I sat in the most amazing meeting this morning. I was invited to attend because I help coordinate a program that is held at this church on a weekly basis. The meeting was the “Leadership Forum” which included one person representing each church ministry and one person representing each oversight responsibility for running the church facility. I didn’t quite know what to expect since I am not a member of this specific congregation.

However, I did come with a lot of baggage about meetings because I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. I generally cannot stand meetings because often there is no agenda and no accountability or the people running the meeting have a different agenda than what is listed on the agenda which becomes apparent during the meeting. I basically dread attending a large group “meeting.”

That’s why I was so thrilled by this meeting with this group of people. First of all, they stuck to their agenda. What was listed, they discussed. Second of all, they actually knew how to dialogue with each other. If someone brought up a problem or situation, everyone truly listened and then made helpful suggestions or offered ideas. If one person had not thought of that perspective, he thanked the other person for bringing that to the group’s attention. No comment was ignored. No eyes rolled. No undertones or hidden agendas that I could perceive (and I am pretty good at hearing/seeing/feeling those things.)

Also, there was an amazing amount of humility on the part of each person in the room. When they shared their results, it was never about themselves. They mentioned all the people who helped make this happen. But their results were tremendous! Remember, I was an “outsider” at this meeting, but they made it a point to help me see that my input was just as important since I used their facility.

It is no surprise that this church is growing in membership each month. If you spend time with their leadership, you see that they are truly servants.  “For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!” (Luke 22:27) It’s almost like they take the Gospel seriously and live it each day, even in meetings! What a novel idea.

The Difference Between Good and Nice

This has been bothering me lately–the difference between “good” and “nice.” The other day, my husband was telling me about a situation at work. He kept referring to a certain co-worker as a “nice guy” but then would go on to tell me of some awful things this “nice guy” was doing. After about the third time my husband called him “nice,” I just couldn’t take it any longer. I stopped him and asked, “Why is he a “nice” person if he is doing all of these things?”

Like I have mentioned, I have been listening more this Lent. I have come to realize that people use the term “nice” to mean that the person they are referring to is willing to tolerate just about anything so as not to rock the boat. Yes, they are peacemakers in a sense, but they also choose to overlook some very key issues. Their ability to deny the reality of the situation is a bit astounding to me. In fact, I would argue that at times they are participating in the evil around them simply by keeping their mouth shut because they are so “nice!”

I have been rolling these two descriptive adjectives around in my head for a couple of weeks. I have decided that I prefer people who are “good” to people who are “nice.” Good people are the ones who speak up when something wrong is happening. They are the ones who call their friend to accountability on an issue that their friend has been dodging or denying. They are sometimes called “mean” by the “nice” people. But I don’t think they are mean. They have courage. They have integrity. They are accountable to God and their neighbor. They love, so they suffer.

My closest friends are “good” people and true friends. They don’t always just tell me what I want to hear. They tell me what I need to hear. I do not think they are mean. I think they love me and want the best for me. I do the same for the them.

So, if you are nice, and you are reading this, I am sorry because you probably think I am mean. That’s easier to believe and makes you have to do absolutely nothing. If you are good, you know what I am referring to in this post. Keep up the good work!

Busted with Juicy Fruit Gum

This morning I was reminded of a time when I was 5-years-old and my brother was 4-years-old, and we went grocery shopping with our mom. Since our family was rather large, grocery shopping was always a two-cart trip, and check out took quite awhile or at least it felt that way to us as kids. As we were standing there, my brother pointed out a giant bin full of Juicy Fruit gum. As kids, we had no idea there was a fake bottom to the display, so it appeared to be full of double packs of gum from the floor up to our noses. He was brilliant, as I mentioned in an earlier post, so I usually believed what he said to be true. He said to me something like, “Gee, that’s a lot of gum. It will probably go bad before they even have a chance to sell it. We should help them and take a pack.”

I would like to say that I replied something like, “Well, that would be stealing, and it is wrong.” But I’m as weak as the next person, so I said, “Okay.” I promptly stole a pack of gum, unbeknownst to my mom. His argument had sounded reasonable to me in my Kindergarten thought process.

When we arrived home, the usual routine was that every child helped unload the station wagon full of groceries. As my mom headed inside to gather the rest of my siblings, my brilliant brother and I headed around back of the house to the backyard. We quickly unwrapped a piece of gum for each of us and started chewing. “If Mom catches us, we’ll be dead,” I think I said. So, we decided to open all the gum and chew it all at once. Now, remember, this is a double pack of Juicy Fruit. Our little mouths could barely hold one half of the gum. And here comes Mom around the corner, “What are you two doing?” With full mouths and silver wrappers blowing in the wind around our ankles, we try to answer. “Did you steal gum from the store?” she asked. Oh boy. This is going to be painful.

Once the groceries were inside, Mom plopped us back in the station wagon and headed to the grocery store. I know I was crying, but I cannot remember what my partner in crime was doing. She marched us in the store and asked for the Store Manager. We had to admit we stole the gum and apologize for what we had done. The Store Manager felt bad for us, and said he accepted our apology and appreciated our honesty. My mom paid for the gum, and we had to earn that money to pay her back by working  around the house. Lesson learned!

Fast forward 30 years. My family is visiting a Shrine with a souvenir shop. My son asks if I will buy him a small trinket. I decline. He pockets the item, only to be discovered when we arrive home 2 hours later. Do you know what I did? That’s right. We headed back to the Shrine the first thing the next morning because it would be closed by the time we could have arrived on that same day. I marched him into the Shrine and asked for the Store Manager. He had to admit he had stolen the trinket and apologize for what he had done. I paid for the trinket and he had to earn that money by working around the house.

But wait, there’s a problem we encountered. The Store Manager actually said that it was okay that my son stole the trinket, and that my son could keep the trinket for free. What? Hello? I couldn’t believe it. Here was an adult telling my child that stealing was okay? At a religious shrine, no less? If he had said that he forgave my son, but that my son needed to pay for the trinket, that would have made sense. Or if he had accepted my son’s apology and appreciated his being honest, that would have made sense. But to say that my son was innocent was insane.

I spent the drive home discussing why the Ten Commandments are crystal clear about stealing, and how even if other people, including adults, would like to say it is otherwise, stealing is wrong. Through this experience, I saw even more clearly why our world today has problems. I sure hope my son learned the lesson I learned as a child, not the “tolerant” one that the Store Manager at the Shrine hoped to teach.