Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Being Obnoxious

I have been reflecting recently on the oh-so-spiritual topic of being obnoxious. I have found three people who pestered others until they were downright obnoxious for the sake of what they believed was right. I would like to be more like them.

Henri Nouwen with one of the residents
of the home for disabled adults.
When Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest from the Netherlands, was already a prominent author and speaker, he chose to serve in a home in Canada for adults with profound disabilities. When invited as the guest of honor to speak at an important event, he brought one of the home's residents. Upon arriving at the event, he found out that his friend was not invited to attend a banquet because of a fear that his profound disabilities would put off the other guests. Henri refused to attend the dinner without his friend. Since Henri was an honored guest, they had no choice but to give in.

Mother Teresa started her work in the slums of Calcutta by picking up the first dying woman she saw lying in the street and taking her to a clinic to get medical treatment. When the staff refused to admit her, Mother Teresa refused to budge until they admitted and treated the woman.

Jesus told a story about a woman who experienced an unnamed injustice. She approached a judge to get what she needed, but the judge ignored her request, presumably because of her low status as a widow. She pestered the judge by repeatedly bringing him her request until the judge was so annoyed with her that he gave her what she wanted just to get her to leave.
I love this image of the persistent
widow following the judge around!

I would like to always get along with everyone and never ever be viewed as obnoxious. But, my work as an immigration lawyer doesn't allow that. In order to get a necessary document for one of my clients, I called a police officer a few times leaving a message each time. When I received no response, I was ready to give up when my husband reminded me of the story of the persistent widow and challenged me to be more like that. 

So, I put on my obnoxious side by pestering the officer for a few weeks via email, mail, and an embarrassing number of voicemails. I finally got through six weeks ago. The officer told me that the document would be ready by the end of April. In early May, I pestered him again and he said it would be ready in another month. I continue to be annoying so that my client's family can get the legal status that they qualify for so that the daughter can go to college, the father can make a fair wage, and the entire family can live without fear of deportation.

I am learning about letting go of my desire to always be kind and liked. I am learning to, like my three obnoxious heroes, to put my reputation aside for the sake of what I believe is right.

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