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What Would You Have Done?

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I experienced a challenging situation recently, one that I would like to get your thoughts on. I gave a baby shower in my home, I prepared all of the food for it. On the menu were chicken salad croissants, spinach dip and crackers, punch and chocolate cupcakes with maraschino cherry buttercream frosting. After the shower there was a good amount of food remaining, which I planned to have for dinner that night for my family of 7 (5 children). As my guests were departing, I stepped outside to help carry gifts and to see my guests off. When I came back inside two of my guests (a mother and daughter) were putting the last of the leftovers into plastic grocery bags to take home for themselves. They had 2 or 3 bags full of paper-plate stacked food. I (calmly - on the outside - not on the inside!) mentioned that that food was intended for our dinner that night. The response...."Oh. Sorry. We didn't know." The food remained in the bags. I went to speak with my husband about how to handle it. He said to go back and say something more to them, that it was unbelievably rude. Back to the house I went. I (calmly again) told them that it was very rude to take that food, when it was clearly intended for our family. The response... "Sorry. We didn't know." A few minutes later they walked out.....with the bags of food.
Please, please tell me what was the right thing to do. I have never received a sincere apology.

  1. I hope that mother and daughter never darken your door again. Kudos for keeping calm.

    1. I suppose one thing you could have said to them the second time around when they replied "We didn't know" is

      "Well, you know *now*, and I would very much appreciate if you would hand over the leftovers for my dinner tonight. Thank you!"

      1 Reply
      1. re: linguafood

        I think that's the best thing you could have said. I probably would have been too stunned to say it myself, but I would have regretted not thinking quicker.
        I hope these people aren't friends of yours.

      2. wow, that takes some balls. im not sure what else you could have done (besides grabing the food from them, throat punching the mother and kicking both of them out of the house). what was the association of the two guests to the person having the baby?

        52 Replies
        1. re: majordanby

          They are not related to the mother. I am a pastors wife. The guests are our church members. My husband and I were both shocked and horrified.

          1. re: missgulfsouth

            Maybe they needed the food but sounds like they were taking advantage of your good nature or your position. It was a test I think.

            1. re: Ruthie789

              These people did not need that food. I won't elaborate on that, you will just have to trust me.

              1. re: missgulfsouth

                Well if that is the case, perhaps the only thing you can do is view it as an affirmation of their character and lack of virtue.

            2. re: missgulfsouth

              They're members of your church? That the two of you lead? Then, in my view, they can be gently and appropriately corrected. That is part of being part of a community--and you and your husband are the perfect people to do it. As someone who has been in church leadership, I've had conversations with people--again, gently and with compassion! about particular behavior.

              I'm not saying it will be easy. Creating and maintaining community rarely is. But if they're willing to do it to you, they're willing to do it to others--and, again my opinion, this is the sort of thing that can totally strangle community.

              Just my two cents.

              1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

                Wholeheartedly agree! Not altogether certain on the exact way to approach and admonish at this point. They were corrected in my home and told that it was unacceptable. And yet they still took the food. What more is there to say?

                1. re: missgulfsouth

                  Let me sleep on it. I'd PM you if I could, because it might mean using language (ie scripture or 'faith based' language) that some Hounds might not be comfortable with. Let me think about it...

                  1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

                    Yes, sleep on it. And then do nothing. Just because you are the pastor's wife, doesn't give you extra "ammo" for them. They were unbelievably rude. Unless you want to create more problems in the church, do nothing.
                    You know.
                    They know.
                    Sit by them in church.
                    ;)

                  2. re: missgulfsouth

                    They took the food because you *let them take it*. The second time you told them they couldn't have it is when you should've taken the bags out of their hands and sent them home.

                    I really don't understand the communication issue here.

                2. re: missgulfsouth

                  somewhere in there either:
                  1) your communication failed and you did not attempt to clarify/rectify
                  or
                  2) your leadership failed when you did not follow up and reclaim the food.

                  next time someone is this out-of-line to you, you might be able to muster more clarity and more forcefulness in your follow-up.
                  it was a learning experience.

                  next time, you won't be so shocked and you will exercise your choice about what you will and will not tolerate.

                  the guests probably relied on your "good manners" to take advantage of the situation, and, probably because you were shocked, you allowed them to do it.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Not being a Pastor's wife, I would have done just that. I am in a very delicate position, tempering authority with a measure of grace, while attempting to teach an important lesson at the same time. While I am used to training my 4 year old in such matters, grown women who ought to know better is another matter entirely, and not so black and white.

                    1. re: missgulfsouth

                      i'm not clear about what you are saying.
                      are you saying that being a pastor's wife and the mother of a 4 year old makes you unable, for social reasons, to respond to situations such as this in which you are clearly being mistreated?

                      it's one thing not to respond the first time because you were in shock, it's quite another to say that in the future you are limited to having no response or to having only an ineffectual response.

                      if that's what you are saying, you already have the answer to your posted question.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Jesus was mistreated. I was keeping that first and foremost in my mind. Having never been in a situation quite like this, I had two options. Do and say what I wanted to do and say, which would have made me look like a jerk. Or say what I had to say, and leave unsaid what ought to be plainly understood. And perhaps my response was not at all ineffectual. The point was not to get the food back. If it were that simple I would most assuredly have gotten it back. My goal was to teach propriety. Manners can be taught. Class cannot. You either have it or you don't. No response of a pastor's wife can make up for the lack of it.

                        1. re: missgulfsouth

                          You have answered your own question, "Manners can be taught. Class cannot."
                          The teachable moment is long gone, let it go. As well as the grudge.
                          If something should happen again, gently take the bag out of their hands. If they resist, let go.
                          and let it go.
                          Harboring resentment in the name of "teaching" is not a good thing to have on your shoulders. You did what you could. it's over. One can lead a horse to water. But they can drink or not, their choice, which you have no control over.

                          1. re: wyogal

                            I agree with you. If this ever happens again I guarantee it will be a very different scenario. I may still not end up with the food (I'm not really into food wrestling), but they will be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Which is exactly what I hoped would have happened this time.

                            1. re: missgulfsouth

                              "but they will be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Which is exactly what I hoped would have happened this time."
                              Oh, dear.
                              IMO, that is not teaching.

                              1. re: wyogal

                                If a lesson is learned, it is indeed teaching!

                                1. re: grampart

                                  Ineffectual teaching
                                  I think the OP actually got to the heart of the matter with "but they will be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Which is exactly what I hoped would have happened this time."

                                2. re: wyogal

                                  When I do wrong I am ashamed and embarrased, aren't you? Those are GOOD things to feel! Otherwise we are amoral. When you can do such things without being bothered by it, that is when you take what doesn't belong to you. That is when you can be a guest in someone's home and help yourself. That is when you become entitled. That is when nothing bothers you. That is when you won't acknowledge your own wrongdoing and take some responsibility. That is when you won't apologize. And when someone has the wisdom to tell you you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you tell them that they aren't a very good teacher. Then by all means, come into my home and help yourself to whatever you want, and don't feel at all ashamed or embarrassed. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?

                                  1. re: missgulfsouth

                                    So...

                                    missgulfsouth. You are the one who's been appointed, based on your own statement. "the point was not to get the food back" the moral judge & teacher of character? You were hoping to embarrass and shame them, based on your own words. They didn't show the slightest bit of either because you received 'no apology'. Your 'teaching' was ineffectual, it appears, and so mental illness must be the cause of their lack of response to your teaching. The next step would be to publicly humiliate them, by your husband on the pulpit, which didn't work either. Is this the correct way of looking at it?

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      That's how I'm reading it, too.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        latindancer's interpretation seems like the only logical one to me-- the only one that is supported by the OP's posts.

                                    2. re: wyogal

                                      so you're saying she shouldn't have let them take the bags....in her position in the community, she can't really backhand these clods and take the food back, but you don't want her to embarrass them, either.

                                      Your scenario leaves her with no options whatsoever.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Then she's living in a world that many don't understand. I have no idea what a Pastor's wife's obligations are.

                                        The food wasn't theirs to take...most people wouldn't have let it go out the door if keeping the food was the main objective.
                                        Humiliated, embarrassed, upset, screaming, crying....the food would have stayed in the house.
                                        I would think the position in the community is clear, for her, and the problem with this thread was that nobody, clearly, understood the dynamics to begin with.

                                        1. re: latindancer

                                          no, some of us live/have lived in the South and have spent some time around small churches.

                                          Upset, screaming, and crying would have spread like wildfire through the congregation, to the local elders, and back to the local diocese....and THAT would have been a serious problem for the pastor's career.

                                          It's one of the few occupations where your spouse and his/her behaviour is a crucial part of your career.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Thanks for the explanation. I think I'm getting it now.
                                            It's totally unfamiliar territory for many of us.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              I've read some of what has been added here over the last few days. Honestly, I got what I came here for on day one....validation that my anger was not uncalled for, and suggestions for how to handle such a situation if it were to arise again. I never imagined it would become so ugly here. Please stop using my situation as a reason to bash one another. Not one person here knows me, or my husband, or my church, or how I feel about what happened that day. Yet you are talking in circles and rehashing it over and over again. I am supposed to "let it go" but you can continue to beat a dead horse to prove your points? Sunshine - I would never have screamed and cried. The very thought of that is impossible to me. I myself was very truly ashamed and embarrased enough for the both of them, since they were not for themselves. And for those of you here who think they were right not to be ashamed, perhaps one day you will find yourself in my shoes. But then you are not Pastor's wives, so you will be able to scream and cry and rip bags out of hands. You will be able to gossip (which I have not done - no one in our church knows that this happened. My coming here was for advice on etiquette, as a fairly new Pastor's wife. I did not come here to spread malicious gossip. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.) and do all manner of ill will to anyone who crosses you. No one will think you a terrible Christian for your lack of forgiveness. But there are people in the world who hate pastors wives and would love to tear them down, and I think some of you are just that. I didn't come here to win an argument. You gave your advice, and some of it was very good, and some of you have wisdom. But some of you have nothing better to do than argue and I ask that you please leave this particular forum alone now. I am leaving Chowhound. For those of you who are Christians, and who know the careful manner in which a pastors wife must walk, please pray for me. We face a lot of scrutiny, that is not always warranted or deserved. God Bless.

                                            2. re: latindancer

                                              Latindancer with all due respect you do not understand what her obligations are. She is under constant scrutiny.

                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                <you do not understand what her obligations are>

                                                I'm pretty sure I understand a few things after reading this thread in its entirety.
                                                I understand some of her*obligations* have very little to do with the subject of food leaving the house.

                                            3. re: sunshine842

                                              yet others on this thread have suggested versions of public shaming (the comment about getting the "ladies auxiliary "involved) and backhanded gossip (veiled as a "warning" to protect other church members) as being "legal."

                                              both of these approaches, (in my world), would be completely out of line.
                                              since you can never "take back" or undo such irrevocable negative publicizing, such tactics, (maybe just in my world) are seen as being truly malicious.

                                              sunshinegirl, are these quiet-but-lethal approaches ok in southern church social circles?

                                              there was no outcry, though, on this board about them.

                                              (whoops! i take it back, wyogal just posted that she found the OPs desire to embarrass and shame them to be disgusting. FINALLY someone sees something unacceptable about this approach!)

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                I haven't been a girl in a very long time.

                                                But no -- if she starts gossip and innendo, then SHE is the problem.

                                                her hands are really firmly tied in this one, and there really is no recourse.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                No, I'm saying that if one could be Cher and "turn back time," yeah, gently take the bags. If they offered resistance to that, let it go.
                                                But, in real life, there were no other options. I didn't say to "back hand these clods."
                                                In reality, there were no other options, she said what she said, they still did it and now she needs to just let it go.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  ... and quite frankly, my point was that the OP wanted to embarrass and shame them, which I disagree with. I quoted the OP, that was never my position. My position involved grace. Let it go.

                                                2. re: wyogal

                                                  IMO
                                                  << they will be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Which is exactly what I hoped would have happened this time.>>

                                                  was truly the OP's goal .
                                                  don't see teaching as what she's really talking about.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Yes, that's why I put it in quotes, and it tells me that "teaching" had nothing to do with it.

                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                      But couldn't it be argued that this would lead to an understanding that the behaviour was wrong? People tend not to feel ashamed about doing the right thing...

                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                        Wanting to shame and embarrass somebody rarely leads to an understanding.

                                            4. re: missgulfsouth

                                              Honestly, I think you did everything you could have done, but these two women were bent on stealing the leftover food. Fume for a while, vent here, and get it out of your system, but in order to keep the peace in your community, you are just going to have to forgive them. And like Jesus, you're going to have to forgive even if they don't ask for it, as he did for the soldiers who put him on the cross.

                                              And here I must confess that I might be tempted to ask my husband to insert a sly little bit about thievery in his next sermon...but I'm pretty sure I'm not as good a Christian as you are!

                                              1. re: missgulfsouth

                                                And it shows class to gossip and laugh about these people behind their backs? Really?

                                                What they did was tacky, rude, and inappropriate, no doubt. But I have never known two wrongs to make a right. And certainly, as a woman who is so aware of her "responsibilities" as a pastor's wife and how that might reflect on her husband, I would think that public shaming, gossiping, grudge-holding, etc would be at the top of the list of things that would reflect very poorly on a pastor.

                                                WWJD? Pretty sure none of the things suggested by OP.

                                              2. re: westsidegal

                                                She is saying that gentleness and manners prevail in her position versus aggressive "mean girls mentality" confrontation. It isn't a throw down between street thugs.For some of us manners do count.Not everything in life has to be about beating on your chest and "winning" now does it?

                                                1. re: Lillipop

                                                  Lillipop, to you,
                                                  does being direct and straightforward equate to having:
                                                  an <<aggressive "mean girls mentality" confrontation>>?

                                                  haven't you ever had an honest, direct, simple, calm, interchange with someone that did not become:
                                                  an <<aggressive "mean girls mentality" confrontation>>, and, instead, have it lead to a simple, clear, agreement and understanding between the parties about what they both desire and are willing to give each other?

                                                  i;m not clear about why you think disclosure equates with an
                                                  <<aggressive "mean girls mentality" confrontation>>
                                                  and a <<throw down between street thugs>>.

                                                  conversely, i would submit that having good manners doesn't always have to involve high levels of dishonesty and deceit.

                                                2. re: westsidegal

                                                  Westside gal, a pastor`s wife lives in a glass bubble so to speak and a high standard is set for her.

                                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                                      I have a question, then Ruthie. I don't feel like I'm trespassing here, based on the OP's offering telling this thread she's a Pastor's wife....

                                                      What is the 'high standard' that's set for her? She's obviously questioning how she handled the situation and wants feedback. She's getting it, based on a number of various responses, and it's become confusing for some who've put it out there and been reprimanded for the response.
                                                      Living in a 'glass bubble'? What does that mean?

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        it means that as the pastor's wife, she is perceived as a model of the pastor and his congregation, and any misbehaviour (even perceived) on her part is seen as a black mark on her husband and his church. In extreme cases (far bigger issues than this one) a wife's behaviour can affect her husband's career.

                                                        She simply doesn't have the option of telling these two what she really thinks, nor even of doing what she really ought to, from time to time.

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          She`s a pastor`s wife living on faith but at the same time she is a human being capable of making human mistakes. Some church people put the Pastor and his wife on a pedastal expecting them to do no wrong. Glass bubble means you are constantly being observed and judged and expected to always due the right thing.

                                                          1. re: Ruthie789

                                                            ...even though every person in the congregation has their own definition of "the right thing" and will not hesitate to publicly discuss her failings by not doing "the right thing" according to THEIR definition.

                                                            It's a really, really difficult position -- and I respect those brave (and strong) enough to take it on, especially since it's an unpaid position to be the pastor's wife.

                                                        2. re: Ruthie789

                                                          Yep. I'm not a pastor's wife, but have held visible leadership roles in my church and other Christian organizations. It's not easy.

                                                      2. re: missgulfsouth

                                                        Could your husband have made an appearance, being that you're in a 'delicate position' trying to 'temper authority with a measure of grace'?
                                                        If he were to come into the door without saying a word, I would bet your 5 children would have had a feast that night.
                                                        I'm curious why he didn't.

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          He did come in and did not say a word. He stood there and looked at them. And then he went back outside. A lot of help that was!!! I told them that Pastor was angry that they took all the food. They still took it. I'm telling you, these are impossibly clueless individuals! I don't want to be unkind, but perhaps there is some degree of mental illness involved??? How could there NOT be?

                                                          1. re: missgulfsouth

                                                            With advance apologies for the language, karma is a bitch -- and these two are ripe for a comeuppance.

                                                            1. re: missgulfsouth

                                                              You are calling (2) women, a mother and her daughter, mentally ill because they brazenly took away food from your home because they felt like they could, with a feel of entitlement.
                                                              They had to have had a reason for feeling like they could. Mental illness is not what comes to mind, whatsoever.

                                                  1. In some jurisdiction, that would be larceny.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      It is stealing. We feel the same way. Just not sure how to handle the manners side of things. We are not accustomed to such behavior, and can't imagine any scenario in which it would ever be acceptable for a guest to help himself/herself to leftover food at a party. Without asking. After being told that it was meant for the hosts family. And that it is unbelievable rude. It does take a special kind of person to do that. To the Pastors family no less. I'm still at a loss some weeks later....

                                                      1. re: missgulfsouth

                                                        maybe these people are going through hard times and are just too ashamed to ask for help. you might want to mention at the next service that you are taking up a collection for these people as they have shown to you that they are in need of food. you can then use their act of taking every last bit of leftovers from your home as an example.

                                                        1. re: Vidute

                                                          OP said that need is not an issue with this family.

                                                          (well, need for food is not an issue. Need for lessons in basic human behaviour, obviously.)

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            public persona is not always the same as private reality. nobody knows what is going on inside someone else's home.

                                                            anyway, please look at stecworld's response. she understood the underlying message of my post.

                                                          2. re: Vidute

                                                            Very good idea! Then everyone will be alerted to what they do and will not be caught offguard as the OP was.

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I would have shot them, of course I live in Texas. Really, just kidding. How 'bout having them climb the mast in a storm, thrown in irons, or keelhauled. Can you tell I just watched Mutiny on the Bounty? Cat 'o nine tails? I think you did all you can do, and just turn the other cheek.

                                                        3. I guess your cooking was amazing, you could take it as a compliment.