On Wings Of Eagles

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are we Judging with our Heart?

Luke 6:37 (New International Version)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Here is a story told by an administrative advisor in California.

In 1988, I was working as an administrative advisor in California for a county welfare rights organization and represented people whose welfare benefits were threatened.

My client, an older gentleman, had been fired by the Salvation Army for having a beer with his lunch. If the charge against him was upheld, then he stood to lose his welfare because, in our state, indigent people without children had to work part time in order to qualify for benefits.

When the judge finally arrived, we entered the small side room which had been set up for the hearing. We took our positions at the various tables.

As the hearing began, the first person took the witness stand. I could hardly believe the heartlessness of the woman who had fired this kind faced old gentleman. She went on and on about how disgusting this man was and how dangerous he was to himself and to everyone in the building who had to work with him. She told the court that he was slow in getting up and down the stairs and that he needed to be reminded, almost everyday, that it was time for him to go home and that the work day was over.

Finally, I got my chance to question her. The first thing I asked was if she had ever had a drink with her meal while on her lunch break.

She was very quiet and acted as though she did not want to answer the question. Then she finally said, "I never drink beer."

"That is not what I asked you. I asked you if you had ever had a drink while eating a meal," I said.

"Yes, I have a wine with my lunch almost every day", she replied, in a harsh tone."

"Then why is it wrong for this gentleman to have a beer with his lunch?" I asked.

"Because people who drink beer are alcoholics," she told the court.

"Then that must make you a wine-o," I said.

Of course, the judge told me to tone down my comments and keep my personal opinions to myself. At that point in the hearing the woman started trying to change things around and told the court that the real reason she fired the old man was not because he had a beer, but because the old man was a danger to himself and to everyone working at their facility.

She said that the old man was psychotic and depressing and that he could possibly hurt someone if allowed to stay on the job.

The judge called for a recess and we retired for a one hour lunch break. I immediately drove over to the Salvation Army office and asked to see the old man's employment file, which the secretary denied me. I was told that I would have to request that information from her supervisor, who was presently appearing in court, and that she would not be back until after court was over. I asked the secretary her personal opinion of the old man and she told me that he was one of the most kind, sweet, and gentle human beings that she had ever met.

I then asked her why the old man had been fired if he was so nice and kind. She told me, off the record, that the old man had taken several old stained mattresses from the dumpster and had given them to a woman and her two small children because they could not afford to purchase new beds.

I could not understand why he would be fired for such a random act of kindness. It was explained to me that the law prohibited mattresses to be sold unless they had been sterilized. I understood what the woman was telling me. However, the mattresses were given away, not sold.

This led me to believe that this was a matter of the Salvation Army losing a sale. That could be the real reason behind this whole thing.

I told the secretary that the old man was going to be tossed out onto the street if we did not win this case. She then got up from her desk and walked over to a cabinet and took out a file. She put it on the desk and said she would return in 10 minutes.

It was the old man's file and I read it as quickly as I could, noting that the gentleman had been working at the facility for about four years. He was a hard worker and had been known to spending his own money on those in need, even though he had very little.

Before leaving, I noticed something in this file which I removed and stuck in my coat pocket.

The hearing resumed at 1pm and the woman once again took the stand, and I began to question her.

"So what you are telling this court is that the real reason that you fired this gentleman is not because he had a beer with his lunch but because he is a danger to himself, his work place, and all who work there with him. Is that correct?"

"That is correct," said the woman.

"What makes you think he is a danger at the work place?" I asked her.

"Because I have had to take pencils away from him for fear that he might stab himself or somebody else on the job," she replied.

"Why would he want to do that?" I asked her.

"Because, as I said, he is a psychotic alcoholic and he cannot follow directions. He is just an old man," she said.

I walked over to my coat, now hanging on the back of my chair, reached into the pocket and took out a piece of paper and began to unfold it.

"So what you are saying is that you have dismissed this man because he is old, drinks beer and will probably kill someone on the job one day. Is that correct?" I asked her.

"Yes, that is why I fired him," she told the court.

I turned towards the judge and held up the front page of the Modesto Bee newspaper. On the front page was a large picture. I turned the newspaper toward the woman sitting on the stand and said, "Is this the man that we are talking about?"

She just sat there not saying a word. Turning towards the judge, I showed him the front page of the newspaper. The large picture showed this same woman smiling from ear to ear while handing my client a large carving knife and fork. They were both standing in front of a long line of about two hundred people and were preparing to carve up fifty or so turkeys to feed the poor and homeless on Thanksgiving Day.

I turned to the court and said, "Your honor I believe this vicious killer has a partner in crime."

The judge looked directly at me, winked, smiled, and then said, "I think I have seen enough." He dismissed the entire case.

I will never forget that case or that old man for as long as I live. He sat there in that court room being talked about as though he was nothing more than an animal -- smiling kindly at everyone the entire time.

Though I spent most of my young life in an orphanage, reform school, jail and finally prison, I have always loved and respected the law. I just wish things could have been different for me as a young man.

If I had the chance to go to college, I know that I could have grown up to be the kind of lawyer that could have given the law "a heart."

Dear Lord we pray that we would not judge others but that we would look at them with our heart. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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