We judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions.
Back when I worked at the newspaper I sometimes did more than I was paid for. Nothing unusual there, everyone who worked there did the same.
Anytime you work with, or for, the public, you risk running afoul of someone.
One time I did, and it rubbed me the wrong way too.
One of the extras I did was to make ads soliciting sports stories. I’d use particularly good photos I took at sporting events and add some attention getting line, and ask people to contact me with information about sports I wasn’t covering.
It was common for me to strike up a conversation with a parent, referee, or athlete at a sporting event and one time I found myself talking to a cheerleader who told me she was interested in modeling. Realizing I’d never done one of my ads using cheerleaders, I told her I’d do a free shoot for her and if she’d bring her cheerleading outfit, I’d try to use a photo of her in one of my ads.
She jumped at the chance and we did the shoot. I thought the ad I made was a good one and used it in the paper.
Within days I got an email from my editor.
It began, “So… there was a complaint about the girl in the cheerleader ad- I know she was probably just a random girl who posed for the picture, but someone said she quit the squad after one game and has a kid and that she wasn’t a good role model to be used- anyway, I’m just relaying the message, so ‘don’t kill the messenger’ as they say ;-)”
I didn’t blame the editor but did take umbrage at the (I assumed) subscriber’s communication. I thought long and hard before emailing back. Wanting to keep my editor, who is also a good friend, as both of those, I started by being light-hearted.
“No problem,” I said. “As far as I know, you were right on all counts. Don’t worry, I tend to take it easy on messengers, but that doesn’t mean the messenger won’t get to hear my opinion on the matter, and the person who sent you that message. Ha ha.
“First, I didn’t have any firm plans to use that ad again anytime soon, and definitely won’t use it if you don’t want me to.
“I don’t know the girl very well. She only shot with me once. I do know that we had to reschedule our shoot once because it would conflict with her attending church. I also know that she has a baby but I didn’t know any of the rest, if indeed it is true. I do know that she was on the cheer squad long enough that, before she shot with me, she was announced as a senior cheerleader at one basketball game. I do know that, despite the fact that she could have aborted the baby early and avoided the embarrassment and trouble, she chose to live with the embarrassment, and take responsibility for that baby and raise it. I also know that she chose to stay in school instead of dropping out and living off welfare. I also know that she works at (a quick shop), with emphasis on the word ‘works’. Maybe, if she quit the cheer squad, it was because her priority was to make grades, work, and take care of her baby? I don’t know.
“I don’t know the person who told you that stuff and don’t know if they have an ax to grind with (the girl) but I do remember a certain biblical character who said something like, ‘Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.’
Planting my tongue firmly in cheek, I continued, “I wonder if (the girl’s) church knows what a bad role model she is. I sure hope they find out so that they can kick her out so that she won’t be a role model for other kids who make mistakes. I wouldn’t want them to forgive her either. They need to fill their church with people like the one who contacted you.
“Just my opinion.”
I stopped being facetious and returned to reality, “By the way, I’m going this weekend to celebrate one of my granddaughter’s second birthday. She is one of the sweetest little girls you could ever hope to know; one who tells me how much she loves me every time she sees me or talks to me on the phone. She loves me despite the fact that she is not my biological granddaughter.
“Her mother met my grandbaby’s bio dad through her church, where she was very active helping kids. When the girl found out she was pregnant, both the bio dad and her church abandoned her, just when she needed them most. Luckily, my granddaughter’s mom, instead of abandoning her religion and having an abortion, found a church that accepted her and she kept both her faith and her baby. She met my son; they all fell in love; and now they are a happy family that attends church regularly.
“It seems that Jesus is much more forgiving than some people who claim they know what He wants. Hmmm, maybe God has plans that required my granddaughter to be born out of wedlock. After all, His son was born to a man who wasn’t his bio dad. I bet Mary heard, ‘Yeah, right, God is the father of your baby,’ a few times from people like the one who contacted you. Ha ha.
“By the way, the granddaughter I referred to is as much my granddaughter as any of the others. Maybe the conception was a mistake, but the baby was not. If she hadn’t been born out of wedlock, she and her mother probably wouldn’t be members of my family right now. It saddens me to think about not having those two fun, beautiful, loving people in my family.
“By the way, I could also mention that I have noticed other people in our paper who have made mistakes in their lives. I’ve noticed wedding announcements with babies and toddlers in them. Hmmm, I wonder how that happened? I could name a few people who appear regularly in our paper who have made some mistakes, and they are not in there for committing crimes either.
“Ah, I feel better now. Ha ha.”
I concluded, “There you are, messenger unhurt. I started to say undead, but that makes you sound like a zombie. Ha ha.”
My friend responded, “No argument from me 🙂 Some of my favorite people were unplanned- including Jesus. Also, I am avidly pro-life.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the abandonment of morality, exactly the opposite. Truly moral people can have lives that are long and relatively stress free. Immoral people often say they are not hurting anybody but just want to be left alone. Actually they are committing acts that may have long term repercussions and that will force others to get involved in their lives. Think child services, law enforcement, and mental and physical health personnel and you get the idea.
To the person who made the complaint, I’m saying, don’t just CLAIM morality, but LEARN what you are claiming to be and BE it. Hold yourself to high standards but be willing to forgive others for their mistakes and support them in their attempts to do better.
By the way, if your church doesn’t teach forgiveness, your problems are bigger than you think.
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