I was out of town camping. My Administrative Assistant, Melissa, took the call. Twenty-five minutes later she put the phone down exhausted from the tirade she had just endured.
Apparently, "needy" is a racial slur. At least that is what the caller told Melissa.
Our church is collecting school supplies to give to neighborhood children that are in need of them. That's why Terry, our designated church sign changer, put on the sign out front, "Accepting book bags for needy children."
"I've been driving past your church every day for a week, and today I decided to call," yelled the lady, er, um, woman. "You might as well just put, 'Bookbags for n------!'" her rant continued.
Yes, she actually said that.
The woman went on to indicate that she works for a social service agency. She declined to say which one. She did not leave her name or number.
No good deed goes unpunished, and this isn't the first time.
Two years ago it was peanut butter.
In 2008, our church was asked to collect peanut butter for distribution in Haiti. Through the generosity of our community, several news agencies, and our church partners, we were able to send 9,000 or so jars of peanut butter to our missionary friends.
That's when the emails from angry Mennonites began. (I didn't even know Mennonites got angry.) Apparently there was a list of some sort, and my email address was mailed to every person on it. I was accused of paternalism, colonialism and a couple of other -isms that I didn't know existed. I was told I was destroying the Haitian peanut economy.
Unlike the bookbag "incident" the email approach gave me an opportunity to respond. I emailed each of the folks that contacted me and said that I would love to connect with them and learn how we could more effectively bless the Haitian people. "If you have ideas," I wrote, "I would love to hear about them. Let's partner together."
There are some folks that are just critical. They have, as a friend tells me, "the spiritual gift of voting no."
No good deed goes unpunished. But I'm not ready to give up on good deeds - not yet, anyway.
When the book is closed on my life, or my church's, if folks want to say, "In his pursuit of doing good, he sometimes messed up; he sometimes made mistakes," so be it.
I'd rather get it wrong sometimes that to sit on the sidelines and hurl criticism and insults at the ones laboring in the sweat and blood of the arena. Put that on my tombstone.