Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Homeowner--A Parable

November 24, 2015

There once was a good man, who lived in a good, working-class neighborhood. At least for a long time, almost everyone considered both the man and his neighborhood to be good. Then, slowly but surely, things began to change. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

For years, the man worked hard to support his family and contribute to his community. He cherished the few weeks of vacation he received each year as those were the real times he could truly devote to his family and also observe his religious holidays. The man did not have any life-threatening health issues, but did suffer from certain chronic pain. Yet, for years, he forced himself to work through the pain and provided for his family the best that he could. The man also realized that a significant portion of his hard-earned income went to pay various types of taxes, but he did not complain. He was lucky in that many others in this tight-knit community were like-minded and hard-working. For the most part, everyone in the community did their part, people were happy and there was only the occasional bickering, which typically was settled amicably.

The man and his family, like many others in their community, were G-d-fearing people and wanted to do even more good for society. They realized that their tax dollars were being used to support a multitude of people who could, but did not, work or contribute to their community or society at all. With all of the routine costs and expenses the family had, which always seemed to be rising, and despite the fact that the man and his wife only had two children, money was often an issue. But that did not prevent the man and many of his similarly-situated and like-minded neighbors from giving charity and wanting to help others.

So the man would very frequently invite guests to his house. The man and his family were wonderful hosts and, for a long time, the guests were appreciative of the family's warm hospitality.

The man shared a bedroom in the house with his wife and his two children had their own bedrooms. That left one spare bedroom (converted from a den into a bedroom) in the modest "four-bedroom" house.

One day, two men who traveled together and were friends with each other, but not known by the man or others in the community, were welcomed as guests in the man's house. The man and his family were their usual hospitable selves, but, to their surprise, the guests complained about having to share the spare bedroom with the two separate small beds. They argued that the man's children should share a room and that each guest should have his own room. Furthermore, they felt that they each should stay in the children's bedrooms and the children should share the spare bedroom with the two small beds. A little taken aback, the man acceded to the guests' requests.

News of this relatively minor incident spread quickly. Not in the man's community, but rather among those in the land of would be guests.

The man and his family next hosted two different men. These men knew each other and traveled together, but were not known by the man or others in the community. To the surprise of the man and his family, these men insisted that they be allowed to share a room in the man's house and, as they considered themselves to be esteemed guests, they demanded that it be the room of the man and his wife. Again, the man acceded to the guests' demands. This time the man discussed the matter with other members of his community. But word was spreading much faster in the land of would be guests.

Though disappointing and troubling, these events did not prevent the man and his family from hosting more guests. But it quickly became apparent that the behavior of the guests was changing, and changing rapidly at that. The next guests, aside from having their own lodging demands, complained that the food that the man served them did not meet their expectations. They felt that the man should and needed to provide better meals for them. The same thing occurred with the next guests. Not enough food and not good enough quality, they griped. Sure, the man and his family were eating the same food, but the guests argued that they were entitled to and deserved more.

The man acquiesced and decided to take his next guests out to eat. It was a nice restaurant and actually quite popular in the town. But the guests were not happy and voiced their bitter disappointment to the man and his family. They felt the man could have done better. There were, after all, two fancier, more expensive restaurants in the town. The man reflected on the criticism. He decided to take his next guests to one of these restaurants, a fancy steakhouse, as always entirely on his dime. The guests, however, were appalled that not only was there meat on the menu, but it was the specialty of the house. They harshly berated the man and his family.

The man was not alone. Other members of the community were having the very same experiences. Back at home, the man was facing new complaints from his guests. Some guests were upset by the colors of the paint on the walls of the man's home. You see, most of the rooms were painted in a plain white. The guests believed that this represented a lack of diversity and tolerance by the man. The man, at this point, was somewhat frustrated and perplexed. He pointed out to the guests that he invites and hosts guests of every race, gender and religion and treats them all the same. The guests refused to listen to the man's explanations and pleas to be understood. Apparently, treating everyone the same was no longer acceptable to the guests.

Despite all of this, the man continued to host guests, but very soon experienced even more complaints from them. The man's choice of music and entertainment was not to their liking. He was told that the way that his children dressed offended them and that the children would need to change their attire accordingly. Most problematic for the man though was that his guests objected to his religious beliefs and customs. They told the man that his religious books and symbols in his house would need to go. Some of the guests even expressed an open hostility and aggression toward the man and his family, who, in turn, frequently felt threatened in their own home. The man was very surprised to find out that many of his neighbors were experiencing similar problems. They felt most concerned that their freedom to practice religion was being assailed, and that there was a related threat of violence against them as well.

The man and many of his like-minded neighbors, confused, hurt and discouraged, decided to approach their town leader. But the town leader beat them to the punch. To the surprise of the man and his like-minded neighbors, the town leader started proclaiming that the members of the community needed to step up their efforts to support and help those from the wonderful land of would be guests. In fact, demanded the leader, the townsfolk needed to start paying their fair share. He expressed disgust and contempt for the townspeople and told them that not accepting the guests with all of their demands violated the town's values and was not who they were. The man and his like-minded neighbors could not understand this. They still could not grasp what they were doing wrong. Why was the town leader so condescending and critical of them and their town, yet he consistently praised the guests and the land from which they were now abandoning and, in some cases, fleeing?

As time went on, there was a dramatic rise in crime in the town. The crimes, often violent, were being perpetrated by the people from the land of would be guests. Despite committing the crimes, these guests also became increasingly hostile toward the town's law enforcement. As the crime rate escalated, the town leader responded by vilifying the people in the town and, particularly, the town's law enforcement. The man and his neighbors noticed that the words, actions and policies of the town leader fostered the growing animosity.

The town leader, in addition to ratcheting up his own demands, also was encouraging the guests to increase their demands, on the townspeople. These guests, feeling emboldened and empowered by the town leader and his cohorts, were making great strides at the expense of the townspeople. For instance, the people from the land of would be guests demanded that the names of various town institutions, such as schools, hospitals, businesses, be changed because they made the guests feel left out and discriminated against, even though they had not made any contributions to those institutions or to the town's rich and proud history.

The man and many of his neighbors grew increasingly agitated themselves, especially when they contrasted the kind and beneficent way the leader treated the people from the land of would be guests with how he demeaned them and neglected and ignored those members of the community who had served to defend the country. Much to the astonishment and dismay of the man, however, many of his other neighbors fully supported the town leader and the increasing complaints and demands being made by the people from the land of would be guests. Many of these neighbors connected with the guests and had many of the same complaints and demands. Before long, emboldened and empowered by the town leader, these other neighbors and the people from the land of would be guests argued that it was not fair that the man and his like-minded neighbors had houses of their own, while they did not have their own homes or their homes were smaller. The man now feared that losing his house could be in the offing.

The man and his like-minded neighbors admitted to themselves and to each other that It took them a good deal of time, way more than it should have, to wake up and see the light. They had always loved and appreciated their town and now were puzzled as to why the town leader's vow to change it had appealed to, or was so matter-of-factly accepted, by them. They kicked themselves for not at least asking what other town or country he wanted to use as his model. They realized how much they missed their old town and how much they wanted it back. They knew that getting their town back would be a major challenge as they were pitted against the town leader and his cohorts, their other neighbors and the people from the land of would be guests, whose views and positions were getting more and more entrenched. Fortunately for the man and his like-minded guests, the town had an upcoming election. It was their chance to try to fight and win their town back. And they realized that whoever was running against the town leader and his cohorts, whether an ideal candidate or not, would be the candidate of choice for them at the ballot box.

And it came to pass that the man and his like-minded neighbors were successful in their bid to elect a new leader from the other political party. The people worked hard in their cause and eventually were able to recognize their old town. And they promised themselves that they would never again succumb to false promises, outright lies and propaganda, and would do their best to protect, preserve and continue the real ways and values of their beloved town.