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The Opposite Of A Meat-Cute

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | November 28, 2023

I moved to a new place because of a great new job. It was nineteen hours from any family friends or people I knew, so it was a fresh start. I am not the best in crowds or with people I don’t know, so I did try to get out there and get to know people.

After I had been at the new place for a few weeks, I found a church I liked and started attending. After I had been there for about a month, a guy who was kinda cute asked if I would be willing to come over to a group outing at a friend’s house. It was just a low-key barbecue with a group of friends.

Me: “I’m up for that! I am a vegetarian, but if needed, I can bring a few items so it won’t be too bad.”

Guy: “You don’t need to worry about that. There’s always food that doesn’t have meat. We do have one friend who’s a diabetic, though, so no one makes a big deal about it.”

I decided to bring something to show my appreciation, and since it’s hard for people to remember my needs, I thought I would make a sugar-free dessert that my parents always made because my mom didn’t like a lot of sugar for us.

The day came, and it was a great time. There was a pool which I hadn’t known about, but everyone was super nice. They loved the dessert, and they had homemade bean patties, a small bowl of potato salad without bacon, and some roasted corn and peppers for me, which was super sweet.

It wasn’t until much later that I found out that none of that had been planned.

Apparently, [Guy] was trying to see if I was really a vegetarian and told the group, fifteen minutes before I showed up, that he was excited to prove that vegetarians didn’t exist. When they questioned him further, he said that I was a vegetarian. They apparently all looked around in horror because, this being the South, EVERYTHING had meat in it in some way or form — burgers, hot dogs, of course, but the potato salad and even most of the corn was drizzled with meat. And apparently, to make me feel welcome, they did an all-hands. The girls began by making some bean burgers, one of the guys made a fresh potato salad, and the guy who did the grilling wiped down part of the grill to cook my burgers and to make some corn on the cob for me.

But when I arrived, nothing seemed out of place at all. And then they noticed the dessert I’d brought. I quietly told the one guy who had diabetes that this was completely sugar-free so he didn’t have to worry. He took it and thanked me without batting an eye, and he made sure to dig in fully with it. I found out later that he didn’t even have diabetes; [Guy] thought it would be funny if he was told that.

As it was, that group — minus [Guy] — became really close to me and made me feel more welcome than most of the time I had been in my hometown.

An Interesting Way To Lack Autism Awareness

, , , , , , | Friendly | November 18, 2023

My synagogue was having our annual fair for the community. We had lots of vendors attending to sell goods and advertise services. My wife and fourteen-year-old son were hosting a table for one of the vendors, an autism-friendly play-place (with the word “spectrum” in its name) at which my son is a member.

At about noon, I took a break from my volunteer position and took my wife’s place at the table so that she could get lunch. A woman came up to the table and glanced over the literature.

Woman: “Are you Spectrum?”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Woman: “Are you Spectrum?”

I thought that was a funny way to put it but was willing to play along.

Me: “No, but he is.” *Pointing to my son*

The woman looked confused but then recovered.

Woman: “Well, what are you going to do about your rates now that Disney and [Multiple Sports Provider] have changed their packages?”

Our local cable company also has the word “spectrum” in its name.

Me: “Ma’am, autism-spectrum not cable-spectrum.”

Woman: *Very flustered* “Oh, I’m so sorry.” *Scurries away*

Son: “Why did she say that?”

Me: “Because some grown-ups don’t pay attention. They see just one word but don’t look at all the other words around it.”

Son: “Oh, I get it.”

It turned out to be a good learning opportunity — hopefully, for two people.

Some Parents Are Way Too Comfortable Leaving Their Kids With Strangers, Part 4

, , , , | Friendly | CREDIT: letowyn | November 6, 2023

In the early 2000s, I was working at a large church (over 2,000 members), and on Sundays, I ran the audio and video booth. We had three services: a 7:00 am early service, the main service at 10:00 am, and a late service at 11:30 am. Each service ran for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

One Sunday, during the 10:00 am service, the pastor’s wife went into labor — three weeks early. The pastor left in the middle of his sermon, and the youth pastor took over. The youth pastor did a great job of taking over and wishing the mother and baby well, and that service wrapped up early.

We had a quick meeting to decide what to do about the 11:30 service, and the youth pastor volunteered to give a sermon he had prepared for the youth group later in the week. It was his first time giving a sermon in front of that many people up on the big stage. He was nervous and rolled through it quickly, and then he forgot about the closing songs, so church ended at 12:15 instead of the normal 12:45.

Everyone had cleared out of the church by 12:30-ish. I shut down all the equipment, turned out the lights, and went down the hall to make sure the lights were out in the classrooms, like I normally did.

One light was on, and I found another church employee who worked in the nursery on Sundays. She was sitting in a rocking chair rocking a toddler, and I saw tears rolling down [Employee]’s face.

Me: “What’s wrong?”

She could hardly speak, she was so upset.

Employee: “This child’s parents dropped him off before the early service and never came back. He’s been here for almost five hours! The parents didn’t give us a contact number. All I know is his first name.”

I immediately called the youth pastor, who quickly turned around and came back to the church. The child was very out of sorts, either hungry or tired. We had snacks but no food, and there wasn’t really a place to put a kid down for a nap. I ran to get some chicken nuggets while they figured out what to do.

When I got back, a couple had pulled in right in front of me.

Man: “Where is everyone?”

Me: “Church ended early today.”

Woman: “Oh, okay. We’re just here to pick up our son.”

I wasn’t about to get involved with the drama, so I just unlocked the door and let them in.

The youth pastor was livid and lit into them.

It turns out the parents wanted some time alone and had been dropping their kid off at church and then leaving to go do stuff. They had been doing this for weeks — just dropping him off around 7:45 am and coming to pick him up around 12:45 pm.

Here is the part where the parents were really entitled: they got mad at the youth pastor for ending church early. They yelled at him for “endangering their child” and threatened to sue. The dad was up in the youth pastor’s face, and I thought they might fight, but the youth pastor was a BIG dude, and I think that kept the dad from doing anything else.

I didn’t stay in there; I went into the next room with [Employee] and the child and gave him the nuggets, which he gulped down.

The parents finally took the kid and left. The youth pastor and his wife took us to lunch because we (mostly [Employee]) were still upset by the whole thing.

I think about that kid a lot. I hope his parents didn’t abandon him. I wish I had a follow-up, but as far as I know, they never came back.

Some Parents Are Way Too Comfortable Leaving Their Kids With Strangers, Part 3
Some Parents Are Way Too Comfortable Leaving Their Kids With Strangers, Part 2
Some Parents Are Way Too Comfortable Leaving Their Kids With Strangers

Pastor Versus Pushy Parishioners

, , , , , | Working | August 21, 2023

I used to work as the pastor of a small-town rural church. Most of my parishioners were a joy to have, but there was a small but very loud contingent who apparently viewed the church as a business investment. As I learned later, they wanted to only pay $100 per week for a pulpit supply instead of having a full-time pastor, whom they would have to pay full-time wages.

Intentionally keeping a vacant position is explicitly against synodical policy. But as expected for rich and entitled fish in a small pond, they didn’t think the rules applied to them, so it was quite a shock to them when both the synod and the congregation put their feet down.

Cue a thirty-month-long temper tantrum.

Their opening salvo should have been obvious in retrospect. Less than a month after I took the job, I was informed that “the congregation” wanted me to start spending my evenings attending sporting events at the local school.

The casual violation of my personal time for anything but an emergency should have been a red flag, but I was young and hadn’t yet developed the healthy cynicism necessary for the job.

So, after attending two varied events per week for a month, each three hours long, along with helping to organize a concert for the local school and helping with a school donation drive, I ended up with one of the church elders showing up at my door complaining that I’d missed a school concert for seventh-graders.

Frustrated that I’d put in many hours of off-the-clock work without even the slightest acknowledgment, I asked exactly how many school events I was expected to attend per week.

Unsurprisingly, the answer was, “All of them.”

My response was that because a church is more than just a pastor, it would only be right for one of the church elders to show up with me to all these events in order to help introduce me to the community.

Funnily enough, I didn’t get any more demands to attend school events after that.

A Pleasing Quantity Of Pleases

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 17, 2023

As a teenager, I used to volunteer as an assistant for our youngest kids’ church, ages three to six. I’ll admit that this was more out of a love for kids than faith, but I still enjoyed my weekly time with the munchkins.

I did a number of things during the class, but one of them was to help hand out snacks during our mid-class break — usually nothing more than a handful of goldfish, pretzels, or similarly convenient snack foods. The kids always clamored for them, but I insisted that no one got their snack until they said please.

It usually took a quick prompting from me to get my pleases, but on the off chance a child said please without prompting, I always made a big deal out of how polite they were. I not only gave them their snack first but made sure to tell them I was giving them extra for being so polite. This didn’t mean much — any kid could get seconds if they asked, anyway, and most did — but to a little kid, it still felt like something special.

Despite coming to my class for years, most of the kids didn’t pick up on this pattern, and pleases were usually dragged out of them. However, one young girl figured it out quickly. It took about a month before it clicked, but once it did, she would always make sure to toss out a please before I’d even finished approaching the table. She seemed to be doing it only because she knew it meant she got her snacks sooner, along with some praise, but I didn’t mind; she was still a good role model for the rest of her table.

Several months later, the church was having an outdoor potluck. I was in line not far behind this girl and her mother. I heard more than one please from the young girl as she asked for the food she wanted to be plated.

Churchgoer: “Oh, aren’t you the sweetest? You’re very polite.”

Mother: “Oh, yes. She’s gotten very good about saying please in the last few months. She’s a great girl.”

I watched the girl beaming up with the same eagerness for praise she got every time she got her compliment and first dibs on snacks in our classroom, and all I could think was, “Mission Accomplished!”