My temporary bookstore is in a business complex that rents out offices to mediation firms. These mediators utilize neutral meeting places when there is a dispute with insurance companies. In most cases, this involves our provincially owned auto insurance corporation not wanting to pay out when somebody gets hurt in an accident. The mediators are there to keep the discussions on track and to ensure that a fair resolution is reached. No fisticuffs.
I watch three groups of people come and go past my store. There are obvious differences.
The mediators arrive in casual attire with file folders in hand and they look fairly relaxed. They aren’t the stakeholders so really, what do they care. They’re courteous and they smile.
The lawyers representing both sides pull up in their brand new BMW or Lexus SUV or the occasional Jag. They use two parking spots because they don’t want to take the chance that they might get a scratch on the paint job, and they don’t give a second thought to the fact that they are in a clearly marked handicapped stall. They don’t have to abide by the rules apparently. They are dressed in dark suits, white shirts and classy ties. They drag behind them big fat briefcases on wheels and they text or talk on their phones the whole time. They want everyone to see that they are Very Important People. Their facial expressions telegraph the message that they are really too busy for this so let’s get on with it so we can move on to another $400 per hour client. They’re rude and they never smile.
The clients get off the bus that stops just a few doors down. Or they drive an old beat up Ford Tempo that’s held together with duct tape. They are dressed in the best they have and without exception, every single one of them looks like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s not difficult to see the concern on their faces. They’re people who are afraid to smile.
These three groups don’t mix.
The mediators gather in little clusters, sipping their lattes, chatting and laughing about who knows what. They look like a fun bunch who enjoy their work. And why wouldn’t they?
The lawyers are pigs. They aren’t capable of speaking to their clients in anything but legal jargon, which is delivered in condescending top volume. As if the victim is deaf. Or stupid. I can hear every word as they stand outside my door before their meetings. The clients are too scared to say anything, so they just nod like they understand. No compassion at all from the legal beagles. I’d like to kick a few of them in the shins. With my pointy shoes on.
The clients stand alone, terrified, and so far out of their element that one wonders if they will be able to find their way back. I want to hug them. Pray for them. Show them that there are still people in the world who actually care.
Today I watched as a lovely Filipino woman, about my age, was completely ignored by three men who appeared to her attorneys. When she attempted to enter the conversation, the men literally turned their backs on her and continued their conversation as if she weren’t even there. She was a non-person, as far as they were concerned. Simply a means to an end – their salary.
I was disgusted.
I know there are good and kind lawyers. And I know that not every mediation taking place next door is the same as the situation I’ve described. I just want to make the point that nobody has the right to treat someone who is less fortunate with the kind of disdain I’ve seen over and over again, not only near my place of business, but everywhere. In the workplace. In schools. And even in the church.
Jesus said, in Matthew 25:40, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me”.
Be the difference.