By A. Hosack, & P. Berman, K. Hecht
People noticed my editorial! Sarah read my editorial and she is telling people about it!
Mrs. Carson was at a party for one of her friend’s birthdays. Everything started out so wonderfully. She hugged her friend Sara and wished her a happy birthday. Sara congratulated her on having her editorial published in the newspaper. She announced to everyone that they now had a famous author as a friend. Mrs. Carson started to laugh with pleasure until she noticed that her neighbor Lisa was looking very serious.
Just a year ago, Mrs. Carson might not have given Lisa’s nonverbal signs of distress, a second though; she just wouldn’t have realized they might mean something important. But, she had learned a lot about how to notice when someone was distressed, since Claire first moved into her house with her baby. She had gained so much that day, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of worries, but so much love and such a feeling of having made a difference to somebody.
Mrs. Carson came over to Lisa and reached out to touch her hand whispering, “are you all right?” Lisa withdrew her hand angrily. She had been stunned when she first noticed the editorial Mrs. Carson had written. It was happening again. Everything was about that Claire. Ever since Claire and her baby had moved in, Mrs. Carson was so busy she barely spent a moment with Lisa. It used to be a weekly event that they go to the grocery store together. They usually exchange at least one phone call a day.
That scheming Claire was exploiting her friend – who was blind to the whole thing. Reading the editorial had just pushed her over the edge. It was like the Carsons had joined some kind of a cult; everything was about that Claire, everyone else had become invisible. Lisa’s husband was on the church board, she had heard all about Mr. Carson’s attempts to get them to spend church money on Head Start; one of those social programs that was just a waste of everybody’s tax dollars. Even the church’s money was supposed to go to something to help that Claire.
Somebody needed to do something to straighten the Carsons out. Mrs. Carson was supposed to be her friend. Well, she could just listen to somethings her friend was thinking about her. “I read your editorial and it was just like everything else you have been saying these past few years. What makes you think you can believe anything that girl Claire says to you? She’s got you hypnotized or something. You’re always bringing up great things that she’s done. Let’s face it, she’s bad, she was born bad. You are spending all the money you need for your own retirement on that girl and her kid and before you know it, she’ll be gone leaving you with nothing.”
Lisa can’t really mean this? Can she? Why would she say such terrible things?
Mrs. Carson was stunned into silence by Lisa’s words. She was just standing there staring at Lisa, and then Lisa just snorted and walked away. Mrs. Carson felt very strange. She went into the bathroom where she could wash her face and cold water. She looked at herself in the mirror but saw the same person she thought she’d always been. Lisa was….she didn’t know what. Claire wasn’t bad.
A cult? What could Lisa be thinking?
Mrs. Carson hadn’t realized how long she been in the bathroom alone with her thoughts until somebody knocked on the door. “Just one more minute now and I will be out,” Mrs. Carson said trying to sound happy. She really wanted to go home but she didn’t want to spoil her friend Sara’s birthday.
She had time to work this out. When the party was over, she would work it out with Mr. Carson. As she came back into the living room, she was just in time to hear Lisa telling everyone that she had to go home because she was suddenly feeling very sick. No one noticed the stunned look on Mrs. Carson’s face.
Lisa is so angry with me she is leaving the party. Is this my fault somehow?
“Are you all right?” Sara said coming over to stand next to her friend. Not wanting to spoil her friend’s birthday, Mrs. Carson just said, “I’m fine, just a little tired. So, tell me all about your plans for this special day?” Sara took Mrs. Carson’s words at face value. She began to tell her, and everyone else, that her children were coming up to visit for dinner and how excited she was to see her grandchildren. She brought out the cake and said, “I refuse to feel guilty, we are going to eat this cake now and then my son is bringing another one for dinner!” Everyone laughed and took a plate while Sarah handed out slices.
I need to stop thinking about Lisa now. Cake, I need to eat this cake and support Sara.
Mrs. Carson wanted to focus her attention on helping Sara have a wonderful birthday party. But her mind just kept coming back to Lisa and her very angry face. Mrs. Carson had raised her children alongside Lisa’s. She had thought they knew each other well. Why was Lisa so against Claire? Had she unintentionally offended Lisa by talking more about Claire and paying less attention to her as a friend?
Why would my letter have made Lisa so angry? Was that just an excuse? Is it really something else?
These last few years with a bigger family had taken up a lot of her time. She had spent less time with her friends than she used to. Mrs. Carson realized she had changed, not because she had joined a cult, but because she had learned so much from trying to help Claire. She would never have written to the newspaper, even last year. She had slowly come to the idea. She had come to realize how many people like Claire were out there but not getting help. While Mrs. Carson hadn’t expected everyone to share her opinions, it never occurred to her that someone would have found it offensive in some way. She was especially shocked that somehow her letter could’ve offended a friend. What was going on??
Have you ever gotten an unexpected reaction from someone you cared about? It could be because of different opinions on how to raise children. It could be because of differences of opinion about politics?
What might you do?
The Southern Poverty Law Center provides some examples for how to talk through disagreements with others about serious topics. To read about it go to: