Fornicating Fallacies

Fornicating Fallacies

It was only a couple of weeks on the job when a situation unfolded with one of our daycare workers. I was seated behind my desk with this now ex-employee sitting on the other side with her father seated next to her and their lawyer on the father’s cell phone on speaker. It was my job to stop the potential lawsuit forthcoming and resolve this situation as quickly as possible. How did it escalate to this and what type of organization had I just joined?

The daycare had just opened a few weeks earlier. It was licensed and therefore needed to follow the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Education in terms of hiring employees. What this meant is that we needed a certain percentage of staff who had training in early childhood education, three different levels, and consequently different ways of meeting certain ratio requirements when working with the children. However, like most things in life there are exceptions and as long as the employee was working on their schooling they could be granted a letter of exemption, granting them a certain level of education in some sort of pseudo way while they worked on their schooling. Consequently, when the original hiring for the daycare was done – about a month before I officially started with the organization – the vast majority of the staff began with no education but were granted exemptions.

The reason for this over proportioned under qualified staffing ratio was simple; all of the staff currently employed in this new daycare had agreed to call themselves Christian. In other words at some point during the hiring process it was determined that because this was a Christian daycare what was most important was whether the potential employee was also Christian. Any indication of such and they were hired, qualifications be damned. So, it was reasonable to say that everyone who worked in the daycare knew what the Sunday school answer was and they loved children but it wasn’t entirely clear whether or not they were trained with the skills necessary to take care of 60 children.

What made this situation even more volatile was that the previous executive director was overly proficient with social media, often stalking every single one of her employees on every conceivable venue related to social media. Somewhere in that whole realm the executive director had found out the weekend plans for one of the daycare employees – that is to say that the daycare employee had planned on going to a neighboring city to spend the weekend with her boyfriend.

Armed with that knowledge the executive director marched over to the daycare and confronted this employee in front of all the other employees, asking her whether or not she was planning to fornicate with her boyfriend this weekend. Shocked and bewildered the employee had no idea how to answer, however the damage was already done and the executive director ended that confrontation by firing the employee on the spot. Not for fornicating, but for potentially planning to fornicate. It was this mess that I now needed to deal with in my office with her father and their family lawyer.

Having extensive experience in human resources and the labor code I knew that the executive director was way out of line and that this was not going to go anywhere good. I immediately rescinded the termination, offered her job back with lost wages, along with our deepest apologies that this even happened in the first place. However, given the embarrassment of the situation it was unlikely that she was going to return so it ended up that I paid her the equivalent of a severance, provided her with a glowing reference letter and a written apology. This was enough to appease all three of them and I closed the file on this incident, wondering how much longer it was until the executive director left.

This form of Christianity – the imposed moral authority on everyone around us seems so abundant in its workers. It is almost as if the recruitment strategy for some churches is that upon membership you too can carry a badge and impose moral judgement on your neighbor. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me and even Matthew warns against such hypocrisy, telling us to take care of the plank in our own eye before we turn our attention to the splinter in our neighbor’s. The last thing I want to do is to speak with moral authority to another person – I know enough about my own moral struggles, trying to figure out what is right or not in my own life – how could I possibly get my shit together enough to speak against another?

But, perhaps that is the answer. It is simply easier to do so – to speak against another in condemnation and judgement. Membership within some religious structure only seems to accentuate that fact, like our ‘get out of jail free’ card. Not being connected to such an organization I find that being genuine and authentic is a much harder task – much more complicated, because I do not have a group of people standing behind me supporting my accusation of another. I stand alone and in my aloneness I seek companionship and connection with one another. Such a position means that instead of seeking to point out my exclusiveness at the diminishing of another person I look to show love and care, to demonstrate compassion and understanding, recognizing that I may be talking to someone who is looking for the same thing I am.

Catching Up to Me

Catching Up to Me

I started this autobiography last year, jotting down some rough notes and then beginning this blog as a vehicle to carry this story of an unknown person forward. Unfolding the story in a chronological way ended up being quite therapeutic for myself, like looking in a mirror – in a Michael Jackson sort of way – and I was encouraged. I have, after all, a complicated story and it was (is) my hope that others who read it can identify – not with the nameless characters that appear in my story – but with the events of the story, transposing them into similar events that may have happened in their own story – and perhaps finding some more language along the way for the reader to tell their own story.

That is my goal, after all, to equip others to tell their own story – recognizing how valuable such a thing is – that their own story has worth, value, meaning, and even an audience. The book stores can have best sellers filled with the rich and famous – like we all need to read their stories – like their stories take precedence over our own – but I set out to say no – that a nameless character can tell his story, and it can still have value, and it still is a story that should be told. And so I did – and still am – but now that I have caught up to myself (It took a year to write through several decades of my life) I will need to slow my story down.

I have caught up to myself and in the moment, right now, I happen to find my own story quite fascinating. I started my work with this inner-city organization almost seven years ago and immediately found myself immersed into this different social-economic – religious place that tended to expose the under-belly of Christianity. My life stories coming to this place and most certainly what I have experienced since arriving has shaped me dramatically – like I think it ought to as we are constantly shaped and molded by life’s experiences and events. But, out of these experiences that have lined my path over the last almost seven years now I have grown stronger in my faith and have drawn further away from the church – at the same time.

What does this mean? How is such a thing possible? Do not the both go together? Is that not how things are supposed to be done? I am surrounded by many who believe that to be true but the subtleties of their actions betray their own fragile place of acceptance within the walls of church. I was out at a contractor’s work site a couple of weeks ago talking to my contractor about an upcoming job when I was approached by someone who has volunteered with our organization for some time now. He hadn’t met me yet but knew me to be ‘one of the big-wigs’. He started his conversation by interrogating me.

“Where do you go to church”

“I am just visiting some right now.”

“You don’t go to church? You don’t have a home church? Give me a list of the churches you have gone to.”

“Are you asking if I am a Christian?”

Over the years this has been a common critique against ‘the organization’ but really what is meant by it is a critique against the leadership – out of a place of concern that we have taken a ‘religious’ organization and made it into a business. I stopped his interrogation, no longer interested in humoring him with such narrow-minded points of view. Instead I offered to pray for him as he was recovering from some major surgery. He accepted so right there on the street I prayed for this man I just met – this man who just a moment earlier was demanding proof of my christianess. After I stopped he suddenly realized just how busy he was and quickly ended the conversation and left.

I run up against this type of situation almost on a regular basis. Judgment passed because I don’t fit the mold. Conclusions drawn before I am engaged in conversation. This ‘type’ of Christianity seems to have saturated this place, this city, this province, and like eating too much candy at Halloween, my stomach has been put off it. What is this mess all about? Will the real Christianity please stand up as Eminem might want to rap about. Now that I have caught up to myself this is where I will slow the story down – to explore these ideas and other related themes, out of my continued experiences, often bizarre experiences – given the work that I do and have done for a number of years now. May my unnamed characters resonate with aspects of your own story, allowing you to find language to share your story because I know it is just as valuable as my own.

Nepotism in the Christian Church

Nepotism in the Christian Church

When I began working at the inner-city organization I almost immediately noticed something interesting. I say interesting to be polite because what I actually mean to say is scary. On every city block corner there was a church or a sign indicating that some sort of church meets in that run-down home now converted to a place of meeting. It is not that I am against religious meeting places or churches. Far from it actually but the more I learned about these places the more it made my skin crawl. It would seem that the prerequisite required to set up such a place was an extroverted charismatic person, wearing nicer clothes then the rest of us, talking with religious overtones and even more importantly declaring that they were called by God to be a church leader or pastor. There was no covering for their ‘ministry’. No accountability apart from a trusted few that they had gathered about themselves, and no integrity in how they went about setting themselves up as leader over the faithful few who were seeking some safe place in which to find acceptance and intimacy in community.

The more I looked the more I was running into this so I stopped looking. I was distraught by it all as it seemed that what had been happening in this neighborhood was that the poor were traded as commodities, passed along by the religious oil salesmen from one tent to another, until the poor’s usefulness had been depleted. What exactly was the ministry that was going on? Certainly it couldn’t be the conversion of the wicked or the discipleship of the faithful although such claims were made numerous times against a weary soul looking for a place to call home. Friends, family and neighbors all passed about like trading cards, calling on their god to save, to heal, to prosper, and once milked of their usefulness, or until prosperity called the religious person away, the poor and broken soul was tossed out into the wilderness once again to find their own way.

My own organization could not even escape such a description for it had purchased its own discarded church building a few years earlier, pressing upon some wealthy donors to do so with the promise of providing them a stage upon which to perform, albeit a shared stage with the husband of the executive director taking the lead role. It would seem that although this husband and wife team had been involved in inner-city mission work for some time what the husband really wanted to do was to be a pastor. And when prosperity comes along why bother with such formal accountability structures affiliated with mainstream denominations and organizations but instead why not just make yourself the pastor? Fortunately this heretical structure was almost over when I began with the organization, the founders moving on to greener pastures and the building now becoming too expensive to maintain, forcing us to sell the building and to ‘close the church’. It of course did not stop the church from functioning, as those affiliated with its leadership only gathered the flock and moved into another building in the same neighborhood, but they at least had no further affiliation with the organization I worked for.

But, as time has gone on I have stumbled upon a larger problem rooted deep within all of the evangelical churches in this city and that problem is called nepotism. It would seem that in several instances, especially within the larger churches in this city I have now been here long enough to see the passing of the torch from the senior pastor to… well, their sons. And if it wasn’t their son it was other family members or close friends close enough to still be classified as nepotism. Such a passing of the torch has been sanctioned, even celebrated with much pomp and circumstance upon many an occasion all throughout the city in religious buildings not even affiliated with one another. In other words this isn’t just one denomination that has gone off the rails it is a systemic problem that has plagued this place and it has made me sick with disgust.

The repugnant smell of this nepotised form of Christianity, mixed in with the entitlement mentality of its leaders setting themselves up above a group of wanton lowly searchers has driven me out of the church’s front doors. In this place and in this time I have to secretly confess my faith to people out of fear I may be grouped in with this larger system, feeding off of the discarded lives of those giving tithes each Sunday. I love God but it has gotten difficult to stand up and say so when surrounded by gluttonous individuals feeding themselves off of the meal meant for all – like the Corinthian church. I am repulsed by the candid nature of their blatant abuse of power, numb to the devastating effects it has on the peripheral.

I have left the church. My heart grieving for those longing for a sense of community and intimate connection within its four walls. Occasionally I take a peek inside, myself still yearning for shared experience, shared communion, shared worship, but because I am no longer interested in meeting behavioral expectations, nor subjecting myself to the self-appointed leadership, the door resounds with a thud behind me each Sunday morning. I have discovered who I am now. I have found language for those unlanguaged emotional experiences from my past. I can look at an abuser of power and say no you have no authority over me. I have grown so much in my faith, in my understanding of God, of Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel but I have no one to share my joy with in this place. I stand alone. With self-indulged bellies and gloating outstretched arms the self-serving nepotised leadership points its condemning finger at me and proclaims, “Away with you rebellious one”, echoing the words of the cult leader from years ago. Not much has changed I suppose. Years ago I was fleeing a cult, now I flee the church.

Maybe its a Baptist Thing?

Maybe its a Baptist Thing?

We were drawn to our next church home because of the senior pastor. As it turns out, he was also my head professor. We started attending on a regular basis and within a couple of months my past head professor – now turned pastor, met me for coffee to talk about having me step onto the elder’s board. My response – having past experience with such things – was that I was not going to consider anything like that until I have been there for a year. I went on to explain that the year was not for my sake but for the church’s sake. It gave them a year to figure out if they still wanted me to participate in some leadership role like that. In retrospect I should have said no, paid for the coffees, and went on my way. I suppose just enough of my ego was stroked to keep me interested in such things.

A year went by quite quickly. We were now settled into our new home and enjoying the neighborhood. As it turned out the church was close enough to our home that it could be walked, which allowed the children to attend the growing youth group. During that first year that we were attending, the church had brought on a youth pastor and we were generally excited with the growth and increased programming that the church was offering. This wasn’t an ordinary youth pastor, however, as he had just finished his doctorate degree and had no formal ministry training at all. Instead, he had been in school for the last seven years or so and was now looking for a teaching job in some seminary or university somewhere. But a quick conversation with the senior pastor and the church scooped him up – at a bargain they told us.

They should have read the fine print.

Like clockwork I stepped onto the elder’s board in early winter, just as we were going into our second year at the church. I stepped onto the board, along with one other person. Just as we were settling into our new roles, we immediately found ourselves immersed in a volatile situation involving a person who attended the church. There had been some meetings with this person prior to our involvement and the escalating story was not entirely clear. What was clear to me, however, was that there were some serious issues with the board – and in particular with communication between the senior pastor and the new youth pastor, along with the head elder.

Letters were written, emails exchanged, secret meetings were held and it was all a whirlwind happening so fast around myself and the other new elder. My call out to the elders to focus first on our internal communication issues and obvious personality conflicts fell on deaf ears. In the end the decision was made to ask the attendee to leave the church. This was followed by the very public and immediate resignation of the senior pastor, which was then followed by the very public and immediate resignation of the other new elder, who was also the church’s worship leader. Coincidentally, the end of another elder’s renewable term was up but he opted to not renew, citing the health concerns of his wife. Another elder up and moved to another province. When the dust settled there was three elders – I was one of them, and the youth pastor.

By the time fall came the church had split. Not only had the church split but the youth pastor had now aligned himself with the head of the elders and they began a campaign against those who were leaving, sending them nasty letters and emails, contacting other churches to speak against them and continuing to divide the church. You were either for them or against them. It then became very clear that I had outworn my welcome and so I resigned from the elder’s board and consequently stopped attending all together. Their power-hungry obsession with control followed me for a bit – trying strategies that a past cult-leader had tried, until they turned their attention against my oldest daughter and her fiancee.

For the next year and a half I had been called upon by various people who were involved in the nastiness, both in church leadership or those who supported what was going on. They wanted to know and understand my side of things. At the end of those conversations they apologized and shared their stories. Many lives were impacted in horrendous ways. The last elder who was also the chairman representative for the church – and in fact who was a founding member of the church – a church that was established almost forty years earlier – he left. All of the founding families left. They only ones who stayed were a few party faithfuls and the influx of new families to the neighborhood looking for a nice happy church to be a part of.

And they were. They would shake your hand every Sunday morning to prove it.

Three Reasons To Leave

Three Reasons To Leave

Shortly after moving to this city we had focused our efforts on finding a new church that we could connect to. Our first church was a Baptist church located in the same neighborhood where we were leasing the home. It was a fairly large church, approximately 1,000 people or so and there was a fair bit of programs available for all of us to connect with. After a few Sundays in attendance my wife and I had signed up to become part of a small group. However, instead of simply finding a group that met in a home close enough to ours, on a day of the week that worked with our schedule, and with people similar in age and interests / life events – we were told that we would have to first attend a particular kind of small group.

This small group only had a few weeks left before they broke for the summer and it was located in the opposite corner of the city. The hosts were told to expect us and obediently my wife and I made the effort to juggle our schedules around in order to attend. After all, perhaps they were just wanting to get to know us a bit better so the least we could do was to help that process happen. However, shortly after arriving at the first of these meetings it became clear to me that the hosts were given specific instructions to find out all that they could possibly find out about us. It was like being part of a really bad spy movie from the 1950s where trailing someone meant walking right behind them, and listening into a conversation meant having your back to them at a table while ‘reading’ a newspaper.

My wife and I caught onto the charade almost immediately and complied for that first evening and for the next few, giggling about it to each other on our drives home. At some point, shortly after the last gathering we were approached by a leader in the church who told us that we were now invited to be a part of a small group that will start up in the fall. The experience was strange but we were happy to have found a place to connect and to meet people. I took it one step further and found a men’s bible study to become a part of that also started up in the fall. I was looking forward to both.

Fall came and my wife and I settled into our bible study group. Over the next few weeks we began to connect with the other couples there and felt like we were creating some good friendships. It was a late start but the men’s bible study finally began. We all gathered in a restaurant one morning and were presented this new book that we were going to work through. Out of a desire to be transparent with this group and a cautionary sense that this book was going to present some interesting perspectives I decided to let them know that I was an egalitarian, feminist, post-modern thinker. The other men seemed fine with this and so we continued. However, it was abundantly clear in the first few pages of this book that the author was not okay – taking direct shots against such thinking. Needless to say the conversations over the next few weeks were interesting but still manageable and even respectful.

We made it through that book quite quickly and the men’s group was growing so it split into a few different groups. I now was meeting in the mornings at a local coffee shop and I had the chance to meet an entirely different group of men. But then things began to get interesting. There was a growing tension at the small group that my wife and I attended. Finally it came out that the husband had met with the leadership of the church, a breakfast meeting where I was the topic of conversation. As a result of that meeting this house group leader approached us and told us that we were to stop attending his group until we had met with the church leadership.

At the same time some of that same church leadership were running the men’s group that I had been attending and they approached me asking for a meeting. I complied but opted to bring my wife with me, much to their frustration. The meeting lasted for close to an hour and at the end of the meeting my jaw was on the floor in disbelief to what I was hearing. I was thankful that I had brought my wife as I had no idea how I would have explained this meeting to her. She was also quite taken aback by what they had to say and so in an attempt to seek clarity she asked them to be quite clear in what they stated were the three problems the church had with me.

The church leaders were concerned because in their ongoing observations of me, unknown to me that these deliberate observations were going on for months now, they had drawn out three concerns that they had with me. Consequently I was not going to be allowed to participate with these types of church activities until I changed what I was doing and the church leaders were convinced that I was no longer a threat. The first was that because I had gotten my Masters degree the types of words that I used and the fact that I only spoke at the end of the conversation – after others have spoken – was concerning to them. The second was that my arguments were well formed, spoken logically, and were convincing; and this was another concern to them. Finally, the third reason was in the way I held myself.

Those were their exact words, “the way you hold yourself”. My wife and I could not believe our ears. How was I supposed to ‘hold myself’? I had no idea that there was a proper way to ‘hold’ myself while participating in the activities of the church. If I were to continue participating with this church I needed to be less persuasive with my words, hold myself different, and participate in a different way in every conversation I had. My wife and I left that coffee shop frustrated, confused, and also laughing. We were laughing out of amazement – out of shock – out of the absurdity of it all. What a way to leave a church – to not be welcome into a church because I held myself incorrectly – or perhaps even more disturbing was out of a fear that my words were too logical – too persuasive. This combination seemed too much for them to handle and so the doors closed on this Baptist church and we found ourselves looking for another church home once again.

 

 

Missionary Man

Missionary Man

The Eurythmics have a song called “Missionary Man” with this haunting chorus that chants, “Don’t mess with a missionary man”. I should have listened more closely.

The home we finally found to rent – actually we needed to lease it – belonged to a missionary man. We came across this home via someone who knew someone who knew someone type of thing. It was the only way we were ever going to find a home to rent in this city. The transaction involved someone connected to my work, whom I had just met – sort of – vouching for my good character to the missionary man’s daughter and some church members at their home church. Then after passing all of these invisible tests we needed to set up to have a Skype phone call with the missionary man since he was still in Mexico being loved by all.

After answering most of his questions with “Jesus”, like we were 12, sitting in a Sunday school class, he proclaimed us worthy enough to rent his home. We signed the lease and quickly moved in. The home was located in the south part of the city, in an upper middle class neighborhood. We didn’t really fit in and the neighbors took exception to the u-haul truck being backed in across the street from their manicured lawns. Our only saving grace was that the previous tenants were apparently involved in with some shady dealings, which came to light after we had their car towed from the garage and they panicked because ‘something’ was left inside the vehicle.

The house was old and worn but nice enough, until the rains came. Apparently, in this city the infrastructure lacked certain upgrades and consequently in the heavy rain season, when the storm drains would plug up from the rain water, they would back flow into the sewer systems, which would then back flow into people’s basements. It has happened every year since we had moved to this city and will probably happen every year for a few more years until the city finally finishes some much needed sewer infrastructure upgrades.

Our first introduction to this problem occurred one evening when we were all gathered in the basement watching a show. A very distinct smell caught our attention and as we stood up to find the source we noticed that the floor drain by the hot water tank was full of sewer liquid forming a miniature spring, a few inches in height. We concentrated our efforts on moving boxes and valuables to higher ground while the sewer water began to fill the lower parts of the floor. By the time it had stopped, over three-quarters of the basement was full of sewer water, approximately two to three inches worth.

We cleaned it up and contacted the missionary man who assured us that such a thing had never happened to him before – or even with previous tenants and he surmised that perhaps it was because our four daughters were flushing their sanitary napkins down the toilet and the toilet had overflowed. The presupposition that was embedded in with his comments about my daughters had been missed by me this first time, however I would have ample opportunity to understand the full extent of his meaning in consequent phone calls.

And there were consequent phone calls because as it turned out this wasn’t the only time the sewer backed up. It continued to back up on a fairly frequent basis – so much so that we basically stopped using the basement all together. We were beginning to have other issues with the home as well, and trying to get the missionary man to do something about it was next to impossible. He had talked to us about his desire to sell the home and for awhile we had considered it. He had talked about selling the home as a form of ministry – to help out another young couple – just like they were helped out when they bought that home many years earlier. When we talked to him about this he suddenly changed his tune and did not want to sell the home until he could return from Mexico and see just how much it was worth because he wasn’t interested in selling the house ‘at a loss’.

Realizing that we were not going to get anywhere with him in regards to purchasing the home – our effort was focused on trying to keep the home livable. But the sewer back-ups continued, things continued to break on the home and we had enough. I say we, which is true but with me working – my wife and I had long ago decided that she would focus on managing the home. This division of duties were in no way related to gender roles or gender expectations – but it was a matter of convenience and practicality. She took care of all matters related to the home, which also included all of our finances, so when I say we were following up with this missionary man it would be more accurate to say that it was my wife who was making the calls and sending the emails.

But then a particularly disturbing thing happened. The missionary man, convinced all along that the problems with our home were a result of the women of our home, decided to lecture my wife on such matters. My wife responded in defense at first but was met with a scolding from the missionary man – a scolding to her directly and an insistence that he just talk to me – being the ‘head of the home’ after all and that such matters were best dealt with by the men and not the women.

Feminism had long taken root in our marriage by myself, having grown up in it on one respect and having simply found an academic and emotional place to me – settled in the idea of gender equality – so when we encountered such an opposition to such an idea we were shocked at first. Taken aback I made contact with him insisting that he can deal directly with my wife on such matters as she handles those things in our marriage and reinforcing our egalitarianism. He pushed back, insisting that the emotional state of my wife, let alone womankind, had no place in such conversations and that I would be directed by him in how to ‘handle my wife’ in such matters.

At this point my wife and I opted to cut off all contact with this missionary man and we made our exit plan – locating another place to move into. Yes, another move, another starting over but a necessary one for within a very short period of time in this strange new city we had run into a very different sort of Christianity. A very different sort of Christianity indeed.

Trading on the Commodity of The Desperate

Trading on the Commodity of The Desperate

Looking for a place to rent in the city quickly became a lot harder than we had anticipated. The vacancy rate was quite low, which made finding a suitable home quite difficult. However, what added to this challenge was the social chasm that had very clearly divided the city into the rich, living in the various upscale neighborhoods that surrounds the city, and the inner-city, poverty-stricken, ghetto neighborhood, that contained well-worn, run-down, and long-forsaken dumps owned by those who lived in the perimeter.

One of those individuals who lived in the perimeter and who owned these types of homes, was an older gentleman who was in the habit of shaving his head bald. Given his relatively small stature, in retrospect, it was probably a way to invoke some sort of level of intimidation – in the same way that a male would grow a goatee, or drive an over-sized 4*4. He talked in a calm, low, soothing voice, full of pomp and circumstance – with just a bit of martyrdom to carry his words. Although I towered over him in height and was at least twice his size, I found myself drawn to his words, his purpose, and his transcendental meaning of life.

Our journey took us to a coffee shop and a long drawn-out conversation with a retired university professor who wanted to give back to his community by providing an opportunity for inner-city youth to get back on their feet. Well, that was his rhetoric, written on his gold-embossed business cards, always answering his phone to sooth the cries of another desperate individual looking for help from a friend. It was a shame though that those callers did not see just how much that friendship would end up costing them in the end. It cost us around $400.

He showed us a couple of his homes and in the end we were going to take the one that smelled the least bad, seemed like it was in the best shape (in comparison), and in our ignorance – was in the best of the bad neighborhoods. However, as soon as we told him that we would agree to take the home, his tune changed. Within days of our rental agreement being secured he had phoned us with a different set of circumstances that he was inviting us to embrace. He now needed to rent out the basement of this home to another family – a family he needed to help in a time of their desperation – and he appealed to my new role with this inner-city organization to get me on board with supporting him.

He used circular logic in presenting the need, and would incorporate shaming language when I didn’t agree with his conclusions. This new living arrangement was becoming more and more uncomfortable. We would have to share the laundry and would have a common entrance into the home – in essence it would be two families living together in the same home. Finally, we had enough of the changing scenario and backed out of renting his home. His response became angry, almost sinister, and threatening. I felt vulnerable, given that I was just about to start a new job in a very visual role with a very visual organization. He pushed on that front, lining his conversation with veiled threats. In the end we landed on paying him around half a month’s rent to make the problem go away.

We had agreed to meet at his local neighborhood restaurant where everyone referred to him as a hero. We didn’t bother going into the place but instead waited outside for him to arrive. He pulled up in his own over-sized truck. We got out of our vehicle, cash in an envelope in hand, and walked over to his truck. He pushed the button to have his window roll down and I handed the envelope up through the window into his hand. It had the feeling like he had done this before. All too familiar. It felt like extortion. It looked like extortion. It was extortion, however this man was a hero to the hurting poverty-stricken individuals who relied on the generosity of his spirit to keep them both employed and housed in his mini-kingdom. I wish I could say that this individual was the only one of this sort that I have met in this city but he is not. I will say this, though; he is probably one of the nicest, which when you think about it – should make you shudder.