Cactus and dirty laundry
By Lynette Sowell
My front porch
Once upon a time in February, I started writing this particular article and for whatever reason, I never got beyond the first lines:
Everyone gets dirty laundry. It’s a fact of life.
I’ve decided now is the time to finish those thoughts. I’m not talking stinky socks and sweaty shirts. I’m talking about what “nice” people don’t usually talk about in public. Conversations about the naughty bits of dirt on the people we might encounter every day, whether it’s at the store, in a club meeting, at an office – you name it. Some of that dirt we might know, and some might only be speculation and not confirmed.
Would you believe, that in our nice little Bible belt hamlet, there are lushes, alcoholics, adulterers, cheaters, drug users and abusers, swindlers, embezzlers, liars and frauds? They walk among us and don’t look like you’d imagine. They can look quite spiffy.
Even the “nicest” people we know can be capable of creating the dirtiest laundry. Some are just more adept at keeping it tucked away. Others? Well, life sometimes has a way of laying that laundry out on the porch for all to see.
You can hear things in the community about individuals that might sometimes take you aback.
Really? So-and-so did THAT? I would have never imagined it.
Well, this person did _____. I’m not sure I’d like to do business with them.
Oh, the tales that could be told, and have been told, over the years in our city. Dirty laundry is a great commodity for the news, depending on how cutthroat someone is. Bad news and juicy news sell fast and travel faster. Call it no-truth (lie or rumor), half-truth (might be true, or partly true), or whole-truth (yep, that’s courtroom material) – it doesn’t matter, as long as it can be shared and spread, it’s fair game. Share it, sling it. Share it in the paper, share it on social media, share it with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cold beer. Some people get a perverse pleasure out of shining a spotlight on someone else’s failings.
I am reminded of a speech given by Robert Downey Jr. in 2011, when being presented by an award by Mel Gibson. Robert had battled his own demons and Mel was the one who showed him kindness when he was at his lowest, while others wouldn’t grant him a little grace. Robert called for people to give Mel some grace, Mel who’d just suffered public consequences of his own dirty laundry strung up on a flagpole for all to see.
“I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason,” he said. “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly — hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.
“I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”
Good points from Iron Man. How about when we catch a glimpse of dirty laundry? Aren’t we better than the dog-eat-dog of Hollywood? Maybe it’s time to offer a little grace and help someone own it, then open up the washing machine. Because one day, it might be us who needs that grace.