Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?
My About page is mostly about forgiveness. Give it a read if you like. I think it is behind every story I write. Sometimes the story is cut short, but forgiveness is where it is heading. I think it was comedian Buddy Hacket who said why stay at home and hold a grudge while the other guy is out dancing.
My short story covers a delicate subject. It tests the extent of real tolerance. I hope it’s tolerable.
Matt sat quietly at his department’s quarterly diversity meeting. It was a conference room with about fifty chairs and a lectern. The company wanted to make certain everyone respected the other regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
Discussions were often dripping like honey with expressions of acceptance and tolerance; each one trying to outdo the other. Promotions, raises, and letters of accommodation were often based on what was said or how strongly one agreed in these meetings.
Ms. Carpenter passed a petition for all to sign in favor of gay marriage. When the petition reached the half-way point of her lecture on diversity she counted only 29 names instead of 30.
“Who didn’t sign?” Ms. Carpenter said.
Matt reluctantly motioned with a slight hand gesture.
Ms. Carpenter smiled. “Pass this back to Matt,” she said firmly. “So he can sign this.”
“That’s okay,” Matt said. “I won’t sign.”
“So you’re against gay marriage?” Ms. Carpenter said.
“If you’re asking, is it for me? The answer is no,” Matt said.
“What about for others?” Ms. Carpenter said.
“That’s their business,” Matt said.
“That’s what you are signing it for,” Ms. Carpenter said. “So it will be their business and nobody else’s to decide.”
“That’s a compelling argument,” Matt said. “But I just can’t bring myself to do it.”
“So you see gays and lesbians as second class citizens and you want to force them back into living their lives in denial and secrecy?” Ms. Carpenter said.
“Ms. Carpenter,” Matt said. “It is well known and you have made certain that we all know that you are a lesbian and have a lesbian partner, until this moment have you ever seen or felt anything from me that I don’t treat you with kindness, dignity, and respect?”
“That’s because I am your boss,” Ms. Carpenter said.
“So are you saying I’m not genuine, Ms. Carpenter?” Matt said. “Because that is not what you say on my evaluations.”
“Perhaps there are fears and feelings you are hiding,” Ms. Carpenter said.
The comment rippled through to department like a rapidly spreading plague. Some began to lean away from Matt.
“I guess this means nobody will be getting my coffee anymore,” Matt quipped.
There was a nervous chuckle in the room.
“Gary,” Matt said to a young man across the room. “If I’m correct you are a homosexual, right?”
“That’s right” Gary said.
“What was it you told me at lunch yesterday?” Matt said.
Gary cleared his throat. “I told you that of all the people in the department you were the most helpful and you helped trained me as if you wanted me to succeed.”
“What else?” Matt said.
Confused Gary said. “You bought my lunch?”
“You said something regarding Ms. Carpenter,” Matt said. “And don’t be afraid to say anything because anything said in these meetings can not be used against us when evaluating our performance, promotions, and salary, ahem, ahem.”
“I said that I miss out on some constructive and helpful criticisms from Ms. Carpenter,” Gary said.
“And,” Matt said.
“She treats me special because I’m gay,” Gary said.
“That is because he is openly gay,” Ms. Carpenter said. “It is tough enough for him to struggle with the stigma attached with that plus perform up to standards.”
“We won’t repeat what you just said, Mss Carpenter,” Matt said. “It was very telling.”
“Aren’t you concerned how you are viewed by others,” Ms. Carpenter said. “Now everyone knows you really hate gays and lesbians. Will you refuse to buy a piece of art or attend a concert if the artist is something other than what you believe in or holds and opinion different than yours?”
“I think the opposite is true, Ms. Carpenter. “There would be more likelihood that I would be tossed from an artist’s showing or a concert for not wanting to sign something I can’t consciously do.”
“And you should be,” Ms. Carpenter said.
“So if I’m getting this right,” Matt said. “It is you that is restricting my freedom of choice and even more disturbing my thoughts and conscience.”
“I’m just saying you must be open and accepting,” Ms. Carpenter said.
“And what is our company’s policy on bullying?” Matt asked.
“This has nothing to do with the discussion,” Ms. Carpenter said.
“Then stop bullying me,” Matt said.