"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

The other day a friend on Facebook posted a "vent" about the way people respond to her beloved fairly new pup - a Pit-Bull. It wasn't really venting, more of just a lament. She was discouraged by the way people respond when she and her husband are out with their dog. People seem nervous, give dirty looks, pull their children in closer, or they move to the other side of the street - that type of thing. People tend to distrust Pits, I guess.

I found it interesting, because just a day or two before I saw that post, I had a similar situation happen to me. Well actually it was the opposite of her situation. I am not criticizing her for feeling the way she feels, just offering another perspective.

I had taken my dad, who is 92, into his barber for a haircut. As we entered the shop, a good sized dog, though obviously still an untrained "pup", greeted us. The dog ran out the door as I opened it, then back in and around our legs, like happy dogs will do. As I got him back inside, it was obvious the owner, a woman barber there, had no control over this animal. As we moved to a chair, I worried my dad would be tripped or knocked down. Sure enough, just as he was about to get to his chair, the dog jumped up on my dad, destabilizing him just a bit. Fortunately I was hanging on to Daddy by this point. I got my dad safely in his seat, and the owner of the dog (the lady barber) apologized for what had happened. So did my dad's barber. I appreciated them both for that.

Conversation continued, and while the Pit kept making his presence known and interrupting conversation, the owner finally had her daughter take the dog to another room. I knew the owner felt bad. So I tried to say something to make her feel better.

Well, being the social idiot that I am, I usually mess up on things like that. "Is he an English Bull Dog, or a Pit Bull?" I innocently asked. Someone I love had an English Bull Dog of the same coloring - white. He had just lost this dog whom he loved dearly and he was on my mind. Further, I had always known full-bred Pits to be brindle, so I really didn't think this dog was a Pit. I don't know everything. I don't think a lot of Pit Bulls even look like Pit Bulls anymore and a lot of people probably wouldn't know one if they ever saw one anyway.

"He's a Pitbull and he is still a pup," was the owner's quick response. "They aren't like everyone thinks," she said defensively. And then a customer in the other barber chair chimed in. "It depends on how they are raised and on their owner," again it was said in a slightly defensive manner.

"Dad actually likes dogs, it's ok."  I told her and everyone else in the shop, trying to make light of what had happened and to let them know we weren't anti-pit. Now, it was probably me that sounded a bit defensive. Good grief. But I also felt the need to explain...as I usually do. I don't like to be misunderstood. NO, it's more than that. I try to avoid it at all costs, probably many times to my detriment. OK, let me say it this way: I HATE to be misunderstood and painted in a different light than who I am, or how I really feel.

I continued my defense, "I'm sure he is fine. It's just that my mom broke her hip by tripping over my Beagle, so I am a little extra cautious when elderly are around any animal. They are fragile and not always real stable on their feet." Anyway, I politely said something to that effect, just to explain reality, as well as let them know the truth about our feelings.

BUT, I do not intend to discuss the yays and nays of Pit Bulls. I really don't know that much about them and I really don't care to know more than I do. I will never have one. They aren't my breed of choice and that is OK. I do have what I think is an interesting side-note. One of my best friend's husband, (then boyfriend) was the first one to ever bring a Pit Bull into our area. He had two, they were brindle. I think that used to be the norm. I know they have been bred for fighting...so fighting is in them, by the very nature of breeding...just like hunting was bred into my Beagle. He comes from a long line of Rabbit Trackers. He has a nose that just won't quit. That is a part of his genes. That part of him works first. I think that is probably the case for SOME Pits in regard to fighting. (And as a side note, if I ever knew someone was using a dog for fighting, I would turn them in, in a heart beat. Don't let me be misunderstood.)

Regardless, I am sure it is possible coloring has been changed and bred out of some lines of Pit Bulls. I guess they aren't all brindle anymore; maybe they never were. Like I said, I don't know the breed that well. And I'm sure there are lines where the fighting has been bred out of this dog, as well. I am quite sure there are gentle Pit Bulls...especially if they are not pure bred dogs, like so many are these days...and if they come from a line not bred as fighters. So there. That is only what I think. That should be OK.

But that isn't my point. My point is, because of past experiences, or "word on the street", common thought, or whatever, our views can be distorted just like anyone else's. The people in the barber shop that day thought I was afraid of Pit Bulls. They made an assumption about me based entirely on the notoriety the breed has received. They were wrong. But most everyone present let me know it was so - that I am afraid of Pit Bulls and that I thought the dog shouldn't have been there. Well they were right on one point. I don't think he should have been there. But it wasn't due to his breed, it was due to the fact that his owner couldn't handle him. I didn't even know whether the dog was a Pitbull or an English Bull Dog. He had the coloring of the Bull dog, so that was my first guess. My fear was that regardless of the breed, that in the dog's exuberance it would knock over my dad and hurt him. I would have had the same concern, if it was a Chihuahua running in and out of his feet. What is right is, until she learned better control of her dog, he probably should not have been there. At least one person acknowledged that fact after she left. "That dog is entirely too much for her," one gentleman observed. Bingo.

So I will leave the subject of dogs, but let me give one more example to get to the point that I would like to make. One example triggered the other memory, and I think it's important. Several years ago, I was teaching Sunday School at a church different than the one I attend now. As is the case with most churches, it was this church's policy to make sure the same person pick up the child that was the one to drop off the child - this, for the child's safety. It was a small church, so they probably weren't as strict as some churches; nor did they have the fancy numbers, or wrist bracelets for identification. Nonetheless, we tried to be careful at this little church.                             

I remember one time, a grandma dropped off her child to me at the beginning of the service. I don't remember if the child was male or female, and I don't remember if the grandma was black or white, or anything about her. What I do remember is the grandma didn't come back to pick up the grandchild; the mama did. The mama was one color, the child was another. (Is it OK to say it that way?) I don't remember which was which. When she came in to say she was there for her child, I looked a bit confused. You know that socially awkwardness I often exhibit, that I wrote about earlier. Well, she immediately thought my confusion was due to the difference in the color of their skin, and she was obviously irritated with me about it. She let me know of her dissatisfaction with my reaction, and she let me know without much understanding. I wasn't as tired and cynical back then as I am now, or I probably would have set her straight right then and there; explaining exactly what I was thinking and letting her know how wrong her thinking was. But I didn't. I just politely told her, that I just wanted to be sure of the child's safety and that I was following the policy of the church that the person that drops off the child must be the one to pick up the child.

In a larger church, I probably would have been fired, because I let this woman take the child without questioning her further. It didn't matter the child knew her. Parental kidnapping happens all the time, which is the reason for most churches' strict policies. So there. I don't do nurseries or Sunday School anymore...much too cynical for that or too old, or socially awkward or whatever...however you want to look at it. But anyway, the point here, is not the color of anyone's skin, or difference in skin. The point is once again, this woman assumed something about me that was simply not true. She assumed my reaction was due to her real or perceived experiences that may have been similar to what she now thought. Maybe it was only due to all the usual talk of racism, discrimination, political correctness, or a real or imagined offense. Who knows? I sure don't. I just didn't like someone thinking the wrong thing about me and then lecturing me for it.

So now to the point I actually do want to make. I simply wish we could get to the place where we are all not so easily offended. I wish we more often would give others the benefit of the doubt, before assuming the worst. I wish we could more easily see the best in someone rather than the worst. And I wish it was always OK to speak the truth.

As well, on the other hand, I also wish it was OK to make judgment calls for ones own life. If someone doesn't want to be around Pit Bulls, that should be ok. This could be a case of walking circumspectly for someone; or erring on the side of caution. What's wrong with that? Pit Bulls DO have a reputation. We don't have to LOVE Pit Bulls. That isn't required of us. We won't get away so easily, however, with not loving angry mamas. We need to love them. But is it ever OK to correct them? Is it ever OK to stand up for oneself when someone believes the wrong thing about you? Political Correctness in today's age would have us believe it is not. Christianity is headed that same route. Don't offend. Ssshhhhh...don't try to explain. Silence is becoming the norm. Just accept everyone and everything. Those who try to speak up are frowned upon these days and often badgered into silence.

Many people would simply rather be offended. Just let them, I guess. That shouldn't be OK, I don't think. We should want better. I do understand there are times for silence....for biting the tongue. There is Scripture to back that. I just notice the older I get, the harder it is. Shouldn't it be the opposite? There is also Scripture that says we should speak the truth.

SO! The truth is I really love mamas and babies and Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas. To love mamas and babies is commanded, but I will never have either of those breeds. That should be OK. Just don't be mad at me for thinking you know what I am thinking. And please just don't let me be misunderstood.

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