It is ironic, as Henri Nouwen articulates, that even while claiming to follow the poor and powerless Jesus, the Christian leaders of history "gave in to the temptation of power."
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Monday I went to rent a car. It was a long trip getting there, but I wore high heels and wool dress slacks and a knit top for the entire day just to impress upon the rental car personnel that I was someone serious and business-like and they should not disrespect me or try any chicanery. Watch out!-- I'm wearing slacks! I called ahead asking for directions and rates and the woman on the other end gave them to me, as well as a rundown of the needed qualifications required to do business with them. "You needa be at least 21, with a driver license, and proofa insurance." Check, check, and check.
When I walked in the door, slacks and all, I gave the attendant a bright assertive smile and said, "Hi, I'm here to rent a car. I just talked with you on the phone." Smile. Assertive posture. SLACKS, for goodness' sake. She says, "Um, honey, are you 21?" I wore those high heels for nothing.
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I think that my petite stature and young face and perhaps even my femaleness have given me a sensitivity to patronization. I don’t experience it often, but when someone acts condescendingly to me, my pride flares hot and bright. In those moments I feel the need to instruct people that I am not a high school student, I am not his secretary, I am not a summer intern, I am not a dorm student. What I am trying to say is, “I am better than that. I deserve more respect than that.” But why? Does a dorm chaplain deserve more respect than a dorm student? Does a ministerial officer deserve more respect than an administrative assistant? Does a graduate student deserve more respect than a high school student? Reflection tells me that this demand for respect comes out of a place of personal insecurity.