Monday, June 12, 2006

Rude Churchgoers

I sincerely believe that attending church does not automatically make you a better person. I think you really have to work on being a good person by caring for others and treating others the way that you would like to be treated. Giving money to your church or going to services is not going to make up for the bad things that you do. I bring this up because of a recent incident we experienced at Junior's in Brooklyn after a lovely long day in Prospect Park on Sunday. D and I rented bicycles and rode across the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate our friends' birthdays. My married friends, S and P have birthdays quite close to each other and they usually celebrate with a big picnic in the park.

I guess there was one incident before going to Junior's that made me sad and very thoughtful. Our group had collectively brought frisbees, kickballs and games from home to play in the park. As we were playing frisbee and kickball, two young black boys came and started to play in our game. As they were very young and cute (about 7 years old), we started to include them in our game. Then, one of the boys took our kickball and ran away. We were flabbergasted. D ran after him across the lawn and asked for the kickball back. The little boy claimed it was his ball and he was keeping it. Obviously, we didn't want to force a little boy to give up a ball so we kept on asking for it back until the boy dropped the ball and D picked it up quickly. What was really disturbing was that the boy's family did nothing while watching this argument take place when it was very clear that the boy had stolen the ball. Later, while we were playing backgammon, the other little boy pretended to watch the game and stole our frisbee. I evenutally managed to get the frisbee back. We took careful notice of our possessions after that. The group which the little boys belonged to looked to be an after church group and that made me furious. I'm not sure what they were teaching at that church but they certainly should not be condoning this kind of behavior. Later, I saw a woman from the same group try and cheat the poor ice cream guy out of a dollar. It was just one dollar! Geez!

We enjoyed the rest of the day in the park. Everyone in the group had brought their children so it was especially cool to play with the new babies and carry them around. As I had grown up in Park Slope and spent most of my childhood in Prospect Park, I was surprised that I didn't remember much of the park. I took a ride around on my bike and I could only just barely remember the Zoo. I think everything must have been a lot bigger back then and maybe places are unrecognizable now because they are out of proportion? At least, that was my theory and I'm sticking by it!

We eventually left the park at 5:30pm and rode our bikes to Junior's. The restaurant was full of afterchurch folk in all their Sunday finery. Hats, suits, dresses, the whole nine yards! We were probably the only people who had not gone to church. We were also probably the only non-black people in the place, which was kind of surprising as I had always thought of Junior's as being more of a multiethnic crowd. I had never seen this kind of Sunday getup - huge hats, startlingly pink dresses and shoes, it was kind of crazy. The manager was nice enough to let us park our bikes in the back room so that we could eat. We were especially grateful because the place was very crowded and we were kind of sweaty and gross. As we sat down to our hearty meal of matzoh ball soup, ice cream soda, baked meatloaf, potato pancakes with brisket sandwich and applesauce, we observed the Sunday crowd. We were astonished at how rudely they treated the waitstaff and the stingy tips that they left. Ladies who were clearly churchgoing ladies tried constantly to send food back to the kitchen and get a free meal. They were harassing the waitstaff and asking for special freebies and being a general nuisance. Our waitress was clearly not the best waitress in the world but we just felt so bad for her because she had to handle these sorts of people the whole day. We just watched this abuse go on and on. We got our bill and left a huge tip for the waitress. The waitresses had been fighting to service our table in the beginning of our meal and I can totally see why. We also left money with the manager for being super duper kind to us by letting us take in our bikes.

Who are these people and why is there no sense of decency? Is this the norm in these neighborhoods? I suppose this is why stereotypes and racism arises. I suppose it was a coincidence that these incidents revolved around black people but I tend to think it was more a correlation to class rather than race. I think the fact is that a majority of blacks are low income and this kind of behavior arises from low income families. But growing up in a low income immigrant family, we never experienced this kind of breakdown of morals and decency even when we were clearly struggling for food. I have heard that this kind of behavior happens with other churchgoers regardless of race or class so that brings up another question of what types of people involve themselves in fundamentalist religions? Obviously, these are just generalizations based on a single day's worth of experiences but this is also added to my father's 30 years of experience with this kind of behavior. How do we change our society for the better? How can we help stop this kind of behavior without being obtrusive? Is it a cultural thing? I'm so confused!

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