Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Men in Cars

One thing I have noticed at the food pantry where I volunteer is that nine times out of ten a woman comes in to receive food, her male significant other waits in the car. I know this because he and I make awkward eye contact when I help the ladies carry groceries to the car.

I have mixed feelings about this arrangement. Part of me understands why they'd wait outside. It could be that they don't figure "getting groceries" is their area. It is also a particularly male dysfunction to want to avoid asking for help. There is perhaps the shame of acknowledging they couldn't provide for their family. I remember the heartbreaking scene in Cinderella Man when James Braddock finally breaks down to ask friends for a handout. He is a proud man who only goes there as a last resort -- and when he violates his own conscience and receives government assistance he promises to pay every penny back, and does -- and therein lies a good sort of pride.

But is it really a good sort of pride?

What these men are essentially saying is that they would rather their wife or girlfriend experience the embarrassment of asking for help, they would rather that she answer the personal questions required in the assistance office (How many people in the family? Does anyone have employment? What are your monthly bills? etc.), they would rather she carry the often-numerous bags of groceries by herself to the car. (Typically I carry bags for a woman with a kid or two who has accompanied her inside to a waiting car outside with the trunk open and a man behind the wheel.)

I was reminded of this recently when one of our church members related a sad scenario at an abortion clinic last week. She and her husband were there joining a monthly protest, when a car pulled into the parking lot. A young woman she figured was about sixteen or seventeen got out of the car and went inside. An older man my friend assumed was her dad -- although certainly he could have been someone else -- waited in the car.

Who knows what this young girl went into the facility for. Could have been for information on birth control or sex ed. It's not known she was going in for an abortion. And maybe that guy wasn't her dad, but just a "ride."

Still. I picture a teenage girl entering a place like that while her male guardian, even if just for the moment, cannot be bothered to even go in with her. And this image seems so . . . emblematic.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
-- Ephesians 5:25-27

Men are supposed to protect women, guard their bodies and hearts. Men are supposed to take the hits for them, not use them as shields. Men are supposed to be "at point," not in the rear guard. Men are supposed to be doing what they can to present their wives to Christ as clean as possible.

Dudes, let's get out of the car.


Rob and Mary said...

As a man who also volunteers at a food pantry, we do not have the same issue.
We have more issues with honesty and people looking out for their own self-interests. As people select thier own food from the shelves. And no matter how often I repeat the attitude of, "Be considerate of others, if you see two boxes of something you like. Take one and leave one for someone else. That gets ignored quickly.
You may try doing something to get the men out of their cars. Try offering a snack or coffee to those who come.

Andy said...

I'm sure selfish interests and dishonesty are also issues in food pantries, but what Jared is getting at here is a separate issue that speaks of the lack of biblical manhood in our society.

Offering a snack or coffee to lure men into accompanying their female significant others will not fix the fundamental issue. The issue at heart is that these men are not swallowing their pride and taking the responsibility to lead and protect their families. Which may or may not be why they find themselves asking for food at a food pantry in the first place.

I see this same theme in other arenas and think it must be addressed with a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood.

prin said...

Orrrrr why not tell the men to take better control of their own lives so the women they love aren't put in that situation at all?

Orual said...

Prin, doubtless there are some who go to the food pantry as a result of foolish choices. But often, that is not the case. It is only by the grace of God that you and I are not forced to go to the food pantry to feed our children--not by our own efforts. And who can say that tomorrow we will not be in their place?

Anonymous said...

We're saying manhood is at the crux of this scenario, which seems true enough. Yet, there may even be something more here. Prin eludes to it. A Christian view of work and responsibility has been lost on our country- at the corporate leadership level, as well as the entry level worker.
The leaders in this country want all the work outsourced. And our workforce is either unemployed or underemployed. it's chronic.

The aversion to work and provide has over taken our country.. Goodbye Protesant work ethic. (Though I also suppose work and manhood are linked together).

prin said...

I don't want to start a debate in your comment section, Jared, but I had to say, after coming out of two back-to-back abusive relationships followed by a period of recession-related unemployment, I kind of resent the whole "we" suggestion in Orual's comment. It bothered me too much to not say something... *blushes*

Larry said...

"There but for the grace of God go I" is true in all situations. But for the grace of God I'm not a serial killer. However, Paul, who considered himself the chief of sinners also had no trouble saying that those who don't work should not eat and one who fails to care for his family is worse than an unbeliever.

Jared said...

We certainly see plenty of folks who are abusing the system, not merely using it. And part of the interview process is identifying those people and helping them beyond just giving them food.

But can we all agree that there are some men who would be glad to provide for their families, but can't for a variety of reasons? I don't believe the truly poor are in mind in those verses.

Larry said...

I agree, I just think we're often too quick to pull the 'there but for the grace of God go I' card in response to unacceptable behavior.

prin said...

Similarly, the "but for the grace of God" quote shouldn't be used to judge others as somehow being unenlightened, unappreciative and somehow beneath us.

And yes, there are a great number of people who have faced hardship and to whom the church, I believe, calls us to serve such that they may have adequate resources to land on their feet again.

Annisa said...

From my experience in crises pregnancy work, I know we must consider that the man giving her the ride was not a father or a guardian or a protector...the man may have been her abuser. Sin runs deep and wide and overflows lives filled with pain. These two were drowning victims. Our protests may not reach them, but I know our prayers will reach the Lord.

Anonymous said...

We own lower-income rental properties and have noticed a parallel phenomenon. When the rent will be late or a partial payment with excuses, usually the woman comes to our door or phones. Yet in the very same couple, when payment is in full and timely, the man brings it by. Typically the woman are also the ones who bring us forms to sign for housing assistance.

w2wkb said...

So interesting, I have noticed this and commented many times at our office where we rent mostly lower income properties, and rent storage units and moving trucks. I've specifically noticed the woman is almost always driving and the man waits out in the front passenger seat.