It’s a beautiful day here in central Florida; blue skies, white puffs of clouds drifiting and flittiing across the expanse of blue so like capricious children playing hide and seek. It is a bit toasty though, 88 degrees with humidity in the 58 percentile. A bit sticky one might say. The weather icon on my phone says “feels like 93”. Quite sticky I should think. DaBoys are perfectly happy to snooze on the cool lineoleum within the breeze of the ceiling fan. I do have some of the smartest dogs in this place.
The peaceful and even idylic view from my windows does not tell the whole story of this little corner of the world I inhabit with these two brilliant and oh so loving dogs. There are things here, just like in any place where human beings dwell with each other in close proximity, that belie that view.
Me and DaBoys had an encounter with some of that malaise just the other evening. A screaming, swearing, angry to the point of apoplexy, old man came charging out of his house waving his arms at the three of us. It seems that he took extreme umbridge, well lets say a bit more than even extreme, at my Yuri piddling on the City of Ocala light pole in the front of his yard. The pole was maybe two feet from the asphault, undoubltedly withing the boundaries of city right-of-way. Which meant nothing to him. It seems his grass was under his complete and total protection from being violaed by a dog taking a pee anywhere in the vicinity of it.
Now, just for the record, I am not retelling this (as some of you might have read my Facebook post on Sunday), to garner more sympathy. I want to relate the lesson I learned from this in-your-face anger directed at me and DaBoys.
First, there is a background for my reaction to this level of anger from another human being. It stems from childhood, as so much of our reactions to things in the present seem to come from. My mother was a very angry, frustrated person in my childhood. Her explosive anger could ignite and literaly rain down on any unsuspecting child anywhere near her at the moment of detonation. No child was safe nor were they innocent if between her and the true object of her anger. When I detected the fuse on that bomb fizzing I would hide in my closet, close the door and wait out the attack. LIterally in my own personal bomb shelter. A response that would allow me to deflect the majority of the fallout from the explosion.
Now, back to the man charging down his driveway at almost dark. I had no bomb shelter to hide in, I had two innocent dogs to protect. So, I did the only thing left for protection—I called on God. My response to his threatening violence was to keep saying God Bless You. It was like holding up a Rosary in front of a locomotive. He just stood there and screamed at us. Deciding that retreat was in order for me and my dogs, i walked away from him into the night.
In retrospect, I should have called on God first. Isn’t that the way of us puny humans? We try to do it first, then when we are in danger of real harm we cry out to God to fix it. That got me to thinking about that old guy with such hatred and anger boiling out from him at a stranger in the almost dark of the night.
Maybe that was his way of crying out to God. Maybe there was some horror, or diagnosis, or tragedy, or pain he experienced that day that sent him into the not only just defensive mode, but the I’ll-get-you-first mode. And the only thing he still had of his very own was some blades of grass. His confrontation, with a huge dose of hurt coming out as anger, was his way of defending what he saw as the one thing he could defend.
And me, being just the opposite—as life taught me hiding or retreating was safer—felt his confronting right down to that inner chld’s toes. I was utterly terrified. I saw my sense of safety shattered when he charged down the drive way toward us, my sense of being accepted destroyed with his yelling and swearing at me as if I was a Less-Than. The same old stuff that I have been dealing with every since I can remember. I know his pain at that moment in his life was so much greater than I could ever know. I do understand that intellectually. But that little girl who used to hide in the closet was just plain scared.
It became very plain to me after much prayer, hours spent in front of the Eucharist, curled up on Father-God’s lap that this is not unique to me. It is how wars start. How incredible abuse and man’s inhmanity to his fellow man begins. From hurt. Not just a little owie, but that deep, penetrating wound that continues to seep for most of our existance. We see it right now, today, in those places in our world where people are not just killing each other, but they are destroying the sense of saftey and security of everyone who witnesses it. A way of confronting whole nations with rockets and raids and automatic weapons and stealing children and using innocents as shields while they continue on with their murdering of each other and holding on to the hurt, keeping it alive inside.
No , this is not new. Nor will it be gone until the hurt is soothed. The wound must be brought out into the light, the anaseptic must be applied, the sting of healing from the inside out must be acknowledged. From each one of us. None of us is completely and totatally right. We are a fallen people. A people who might see the right but chose the wrong, for its ease and what we think it is affording us for the moment. Especially the belief that “I am right”.
The old man around the corner was somehow in the throws of that wound in him. He picked me and DaBoys because we were convient. We walked down his street at a time when he was desparate for an outlet for the pain so he could transfer it to someone else, transfer the guilt in order to feel more “right” in himself. Peope who use confrontation as a battering ram at others are the ones who need the most prayer, the most tenderness, the most love. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said “love your enemies”. To love those like that man, who come at us like a locomotive with their anger stoked up. He met those in his life that came at him like that with love and prayer. He said “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”.
Mostly, we still don’t.