By Simone Delochan, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the CN June 25 and July 2 issues, I had done a two-part look at Christian ethics and the Christian business leader, especially in the context of the present economic situation with so many persons losing their jobs and under pressure to live sustainably. I had written hoping that, at least, one business person would be so affected that he or she takes a look at their own practices and thinks about what changes can be made. There is the reality though, that it becomes simply another talk piece, another abstract principle with little to no relevance in actuality. This article, I hope, will drive home the impact of a money-oriented approach to dealing with people.
They are a young family, Peter and Eileen (not their real names) and a beautiful one-year-old daughter. My first encounter with Peter was when I had just moved in and was unpacking. They were going out, and he took up the heavy pile of collapsed boxes with a pleasant smile, “Mornin’. I’ll dump this for you…” The relationship with the family grew from there. Peter worked while Eileen stayed at home caring for the baby.
There were mutual occasions of assistance and I had the joy of seeing the baby girl grow, from crawling to walking into my apartment whenever the door was open. They were a happy whole family and excellent neighbours.
And then the husband was laid off.
Eileen told me the tale two months prior. He had lost his job earlier this year, and she had known nothing about it for months, as he left home as usual but this time in an attempt to find another job. He was unsuccessful.
Now that he was home with the baby, she started working but had to leave the job after a few weeks as her employer began making sexual advances. When she refused, he insinuated to the other workers that she was stealing from him. The employer is married but has a child with an employee and pays her rent. It was the same offer he had made to Eileen.
Peter and Eileen lived on their savings and whatever help they got from family members, in the meantime paying the rent, albeit late occasionally. He had informed the landlords that he had been laid off. Their position was clear: they had bank loans to pay, and expected their rent.
Peter couldn’t pay in July, (or for two months depending on how that extra equivalent of the first month’s rent, which has to be paid, is viewed) and he said nothing to the landlords. I suspect it was out of embarrassment, and fear of the landlords’ reaction, and possibly clinging to a desperate hope that money or a job would somehow materialise.
Eileen could find no alternative employment that would allow her to make enough money to cover the rent. I gave them dry goods so they could eat, and a co-worker also generously donated. The landlord, I am sure, was not aware that his tenants on occasion had no food.
On July 31, I was awakened to furious pounding on the door. I thought it was my door, and in panic, pulled my curtain to see who it was. It was the landlord at my neighbour’s door. He must have noticed the stricken expression on my face because he stopped and left. Later that morning, my neighbours were evicted. That night I watched them move out, the family now having to split up.
Peter is supposed to get a new job in mid-September. He did not mention this to the landlord because of the manner in which he was addressed. He is now just looking forward to rebuilding and having his family back together.
Can you imagine a different conversation between tenant and landlord that was more merciful? Both the landlords are employed; the husband, in fact, is a pastor of a large church. Can you imagine if the initial approach was not to say to a man who is trying to keep his family together “It’s business” but instead, to look at what reasonably they could accept as rent, in an interim period and given their own expenses, so this family could survive.
Landlords frequently complain that ‘good tenants’ are hard to come by. This family had been living at the locale for over a year with no previous issue with the landlord. Can you imagine what would have been the result if this young family had been treated with dignity and God’s loving kindness? Can you imagine the result, if money was not placed above God’s creations?
We cannot understand the new Kingdom offered by Jesus if we do not free ourselves of idols, of which money is one of the most powerful – Pope Francis