OK so, first of all, I didn’t go all Molly Maids on the old house after we moved out. I figured the new owners were going to give it an overhaul to put their own smell on the place anyway, and, frankly, we had other priorities moving week. The actual moving, three kids, Thanksgiving, out of town family, and a cancer diagnosis in my husband’s immediate family – to name the most obvious contenders for our attention. But all excuses aside, we did leave the house without completing our regular housekeeping, so it was not the spotless showplace it had been a few weeks earlier. Let me know if I’m wrong on this, but I’ve never known anyone who moved into a house or apartment and raved about the previous owner’s housekeeping; cleaning the new place is part of moving. Or so I thought.
I expected the new people would find something to complain
to the neighbors about, but what I didn’t expect was that my ten year old would
be approached at school by the child of our former neighbor, in front of other
kids, with a nasty accusation about our family’s filthy living – as reported to
her parents by the buyers of our house.
As if they hadn’t gone through the house just a few weeks earlier and
seen how clean it was when we weren’t in the middle of moving. I was horrified when my daughter told me what
the girl had said. I couldn’t believe
she wasn’t crying and wondered if she was being brave for us. A well of defensive unpleasantness bubbled up
in me, as I took a mental inventory of all the very judgmental and personal
jabs I could take at them. It was a
challenging sale, and we had sometimes struggled to remain gracious. All of those moments when we had to remind
one another to be kind, to let things go, and to be generous rather than stingy,
were suddenly overwhelmed by a vicious instinct to lash out and harm the people
who had turned an adult financial transaction into neighborhood gossip and
As I was about to surrender to my anger and injured pride,
and arm my daughter with a slew of nasty responses she could use if it came up
again, my husband saved the moment by asking her how she had responded. She said matter-of-factly that she had told the
girl, “Oh, so you must think moving is easy.” And then she told the other kids who were
listening to the exchange, “What? Did
they live in a hotel before? They can’t
clean their own bathroom?”
I could have cried. I
felt so much admiration for her. She did
everything the school counselor says to do with bullies. She stood up for herself; she disarmed them
with humor. She didn’t take it, but she
didn’t escalate the situation either. I
could not have provided her with a better response than she came up with all on
her own. She was the tough but gracious
person I wish I was – and she’s only ten years old.
I am embarrassed by the ugliness I felt about the situation
and by the defensiveness I’m still battling.
I am tempted even now to give you all the reasons why I think we are
nicer people than them. I am just not as
good or confident a person as my daughter is.
She is a class act. And I have a
lot to learn from her.
We work hard with our
own hands to feed ourselves. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them.
When people treat us badly, we accept it.
When people say bad things about
us, we try to say something that will help them. But people still treat us like
the world’s garbage—everyone’s trash. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13