DEAR AMY: I was a stay-at-home mom with three children. I lived comfortably, and my husband always took care of the finances. We were members of a nice church where we’d tithe 15 percent of our income and donate large sums on top of that. I agreed with my husband and our pastor that this was important. Well, my husband blew through our money, cheated on me with a much younger woman and then left me and the children. I reached out to the church for help, but am now receiving the cold shoulder. No sympathy, no kindness — nothing. I’ve heard whispers from former friends that I’m a cheapskate because I can no longer afford to tithe large sums. These people were my friends. A couple of the congregants are my son and daughters’ godparents, and now they are treating me like dirt because, not only am I a single mother in the midst of a divorce, but I can’t shell out money the way we used to because I need to feed my kids and pay insurance on my old car. I took a job as a cleaning lady to make ends meet. I even had to move back in with my mother after all of this. This is breaking my heart, because I really love this church, but I don’t understand this cruelty. I was the one who was wronged here. In the meantime, my husband and his new fiancee are still members there, and they welcome him with open arms. I am at a loss as to what to do. Can you offer any guidance?
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: You need to find a new church. Everything you report is a reflection of how institutions run, but not how spiritual communities should ideally operate. People should not be stigmatized when their circumstances change. And people who are needy and hurting should find solace, assistance and recognition of their struggles in their spiritual home.
This is a pastoral matter, and it would be brave (and appropriate) for you to bring this to the pastor of your church. All of those generous donations over the years were not intended as a down payment for a time when you might need payback, but your very presence should be enough for you to receive emotional, spiritual and perhaps even financial support when you’ve needed it the most.
None of this should have any bearing on your faith. Surely your faith in people has taken a hit, but it was ever thus. Humanity — with all of its flaws, foibles and petty cruelties — has a way of interfering with the work of the divine, however you define it. Simply put: People — sometimes, we’re the worst.
DEAR AMY: Recently an old friend’s son died. I was very close with both the older and the younger man. I learned of his death too late to attend the funeral, and was shocked when I learned that my friend didn’t attend his only child’s funeral. They weren’t close in recent years, but still... I have ceased speaking to my (now former) friend, as have others. We are both in our 70s, and have known each other since we were 16. Should I resume our friendship?
DEAR PERPLEXED: You don’t seem to have talked to your friend about his son’s death. On the face of it, his absence from his only child’s funeral is baffling, but your friend might have had health (or other issues) preventing him from being there.
It is a shame to cut off a friendship without explanation after so many years. Your friend has already suffered a big loss; I hope you won’t compound his loss without at least having a conversation.
DEAR AMY: You answered a question from someone wondering what to do with an historical family photo that depicted people in blackface. One of my favorite responses regarding historically racist items is the Warner Brothers disclaimer before some of their cartoons: “The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were common place in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
DEAR CC: I understand this disclaimer has been attached to old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Thank you.