By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
I became more and more angry every time I biked passed the outdoor sign in my hometown. What was this “great place to raise a family” coming to? The bold letters “LOCAL FAMILY PREFERENCE” really rattled my cage. Was the rental company inherently prejudiced against prospective customers a shade different from the city’s natives? I found the message terribly unwelcoming.
Part of the irony was that the house in which I grew up a few miles from the sign was now owned and occupied by immigrants from India! As soon as I returned to my computer, I knew that I would compose a response to an editor, my blog, or perhaps the community’s tourism board or chamber of commerce.
But as the week wore on, I thought, “Call the phone number listed.” I could produce my own investigative report by speaking to a representative of the rental company! And besides, doesn’t Scripture admonish us to work it out in dialogue with an adversary before taking our gift to the altar (Matthew 5:23-25)? So in a fast-paced communication era of “tweet before you think,” I convinced myself to leave my comfort zone, do my homework, and converse with another who I was sure was a polar opposite.
The person on the other end of the line was most gracious and informative. I explained that I was a native of the community but had left the area at the beginning of adulthood to launch my career. Did the sign really mean that I would not be given a fair shake if I sought to rent from the receptionist’s company? The woman explained that her company was required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to offer special preference to low-income natives for these subsidized housing choices in an attempt to address generational and local poverty. I mentioned that I was quite familiar with the Housing Choice Voucher program and thanked her for her explanation.
Moral of the story? Pick up the phone or knock on the door before going to battle with a perceived ideological foe. Furthermore, we often need “cooling-off” periods. During these days of polarization in our legislative capitals, homes, and churches, expend a small amount of extra time and energy to really get to know others and the necessary facts before flying off in judgement.