Dear whomever

Yes you.

Subtitled:  Mostly just a rant, and if you are going to complain and not commiserate, why not just save yourself the time and go look at cute animals on the internet? 

Dear whomever,

So you’ve noticed that the temple often has food at its gatherings.  Yummy, delicious comestibles which you feel are best piled high on a plate.  Even better, everything is free!  And did I mention free?  Better go back for seconds.  Or thirds.  Plus there are lots of us exotic types to look at.  We’re the ones serving.

I probably fool you with my warm and genuine smile and my mouthful of shiny white teeth.  What you may not know is that I don’t really feel like welcoming everybody.  I’m still hung up on that idea of sanctuary.  So if I ever encourage you to stay, please remember that unless I do it three or four times after you demur I probably don’t really mean it.  (Actually, only black folks have ever demurred.  Most white folks get in line without any encouragement at all.*)

But you stayed.  Okay, I can live with that.  It’s not like you’re going to stick around.  But here’s something I feel is of vital importance for you to know:

We do not have lemons.

We do not have cream.

We do not have milk.

In fact, we don’t have anything for you to add into your tea, which I have just graciously poured for you.  If I did have any of those items, undoubtedly I’d be carrying them around with me.  Just like the guy at that fancy restaurant I went to a long time ago.  As far as I could tell, his sole job was to offer sugar and cream for coffee.  I’d like that job sometime.  Easy questions, simple answers.  Yes.  No.

That means we do not have sugar.  Or sweet and low.  Or splenda.  Unless on some off chance one of the little old ladies swiped some tiny packets from a restaurant and brought them here in her purse.  Which does happen sometimes.  But since I’m also wiping up spills off the floor and picking up dirty plates and emptying the trash, I’m kind of disinclined to look.  You might notice that I am disgustingly sweaty.  It is because I am working hard.

So I’m sorry but I really don’t have any sugar.  No, I really don’t!  Please do not keep asking me as if repeated questions will (a) make me understand English or (b) make some sugar magically appear in the pocket of my sweaty, clammy dress pants.  And for G-d’s sake (oops, wrong deity), please do not say at the top of your lungs HOW IS IT THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY SUGAR? when I tell you for the THIRD time No, I am sorry but we do not have any sugar.

I am pretty sure that the expression on my face was not all inscrutable and mysterious.  The first time you asked, I smiled and said Sorry, no.  Then you said You don’t have ANY sugar? and I gritted my teeth and answered again, a little bit of bite in my voice.  By the time you asked the third time I am sure lightning bolts were coming out of my eyes and if there really were a G-d he would have smited you with a pixy stick.

Other items we do not have include, but are not limited to, the following:  Straws, black tea, salt and pepper shakers, mineral water and orange juice.  We do have a number of people who speak English fluently, including me. Go ahead!  Speak English to me and see if you can stump me!  Because I know the names of many common items in English.  Including, but not limited to, the following:  Straws, black tea, salt and pepper shakers, mineral water, orange juice and sugar.

I guess this rant could be more concisely summarized by simply saying Hey, we are not a restaurant.  Go away.  K thanks bye.

*I should note that homeless people and folks who look pretty down-and-out join us regularly for the food, and they are generally timid and polite and pleasant. And never ask for sugar.

3 thoughts on “Dear whomever

  1. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me—people would act like this in a religious setting, a house of worship/spiritual striving?! They think it’s some sort of free restaurant? I have noticed this type of behavior among some white folks that dabble in traditionally Asian religions. They pay attention to the meditation part and neglect the service aspect, forgetting that lessening one’s ego is a spiritual practice.

    In my case, a white convert to Islam, I rarely see the spiritual tourist types b/c most Americans think Muslims are violent and dangerous people. Non-Muslim whites REALLY tend to avoid us. (I’ve noticed that non-Muslim POC are much less freaked out about Muslims, probably because of their own experiences of being demonized. And I want to send a belated thanks to you for posting about Lowe’s withdrawal of sponsorship of “American Muslim.”)

    A temple/mosque/church should be a sanctuary, a place of refuge. We want to be welcoming, but some folks start feeling a little too “welcome.” I’m sorry this crap is happening to you and your congregation.

  2. Hahaha, I have similar thoughts when I see white people come into my temple. (I hardly ever go to the temple. Once every few years, maybe. But I remember these rare occasions.) At first I wonder, “Are you just here for some cultural tourism, to gawk at my exotic people and our colourful rituals like something in a zoo? Did you watch a Bollywood movie and fall in the love with the quaint whitewashed India on the screen, in which lovely fair-skinned actors and actresses dance around singing and solving their problems in melodramatic sequences? Did you think it would be fun to dress up in our clothes and pray to our cute animal-headed, multi-armed gods and goddesses, like this is some sort of game for your entertainment? Are you a fan of ‘New Age spirituality?’ Do you know this is a sacred place, and do you have respect for our traditions, or do you think this is just a performace, a show we’re putting on for you, a museum with free admission for you to walk in and stare at?”

    Then I feel guilty and think, “Why be so mean-spirited? Assume the best of them. Maybe they’re here because they’re interested and open-minded and respectful, so you should be welcoming and gracious. After all, in the temple you’re supposed to look at all people and see the soul of the divine shining in each of them. There’s no difference between them and the other people here. If they’re rude and don’t know your ways, you could teach them. Maybe they’re interested in learning what all the statues and symbols mean. Actually, maybe they’re not hipster Hindus. They might be married into a Indian families, or adopted, or they might be white people who were raised in India. They might be more Hindu than you are.”

    Then I think, “Is that the time? I really should be going. I want to use the computer and do my homework assignments.” So I leave, casting a final suspicious glance at them, in case they’re going to do something mad and foreign like touching all the statues and pointing at them in bemusement.

    Sometimes my mum cooks food for the temple and we help serve it. Luckily I haven’t had any very rude visitors on those occasions. It would really annoy me if that happened. Some of the regular templegoers are actually pretty abrupt when they ask for food, so I sympathise with you. “Give me this, this and this. Grunt. Sour face. Scowl.” Would it kill you to smile or say thank you? Haven’t you heard the song, “Where are those full of gratitude? There is divinity.” Or “Who cooks the food is God, who serves the food is God, who eats the food is God, who savours the food is God.” I’m serving the food, so I’m God! Show a bit of respect, people!

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