Some people have problems saying no to things.  They’re wracked by guilt if they say no.  Or they say yes when they’re screaming Oh Hell No on the inside.  I am not some people.  To wit:

I just got off the phone with the woman who runs our local food pantry.  They’re having a big concert in the park thingy for some reason, and they need someone to run children’s games.  My success at pulling off the area’s largest Easter egg hunt with neither experience nor incident made her think of me.  Plus a member of their board attends this church and said I’d be a great choice.   She was really working hard at flattering me into doing this thing.  But I told Food Pantry Lady, as I have before, that I’m flattered to be asked but I don’t have children and I don’t do children.   Don’t get me wrong: I like kids.  I relate unusually well to them, I think, and I’m good at talking to kids.  But never have I said to myself “what I’d like to do is spend my time with herds of people under 25.”  Never.  Ever.  Ever.

Then I told Food Pantry Lady that I’d be happy think about someone else who could help her and that I’d get back to her if I thought of someone.  I also told her that I’m willing to help with her organization if she needed me to–but not in that capacity.

Bless your little heart, she said.

Of course, it saying no doesn’t always go well.

On Friday, I was working on text for the new church website.  The church guy who’s paying for it all is, by his account at least, very busy and important.   He was working with the designers and sending me, literally, an email every ten minutes.  The whole text for the new website business began weeks and weeks ago.  I’d  finished everything–except for a history of the church that someone else said she’d do.  She didn’t do it,  so I was working on that.  I didn’t have anything terribly pressing to get done, and it wasn’t a big deal.  You know, until Church Guy, made it a very big deal.

Church Guy wanted to upload a lot of sermons to the site.  The pastor sent me six to edit.  I got through with one.  Church Guy sent me an email detailing the format he wanted it sent in.  I formatted the sermon.  Then I formatted my way, which, in my estimation, looked much better.  I sent them both via email.  I got back to editing the sermons, which were just not ready to be read by anyone anywhere.

I should say at this point that I work a four hour day on Fridays.  Four hours.  Eight to noon.

I got about halfway through the second sermon when Church Guy emailed me and asked for a description of the church’s annual events.  That seemed vaguely more pressing than the sermons, since they already had at least one.  I fired off a bulleted list with descriptors and a sweet little note about serving the community and emailed it.  I went back to my second sermon.  Then I realized it was 1230pm.  I began shutting down programs on my computer because I had weekend plans and wasn’t about to hang around.

My email dinged.  Church Guy wanted a history of the youth group and a list of all the events they do each year.  I forwarded him their current calendar along with an explanation that, since it was nearly one pm and I had other commitments, I wouldn’t be able to do anymore work on the website that day.  I would be, I said, happy to pick up the project on Monday morning.   I wished him a good weekend, and I shut down my computer.

Yesterday I had four emails from him waiting in my inbox.  The first one was a request that must’ve been sent before he received my email: he wanted me to write  something about the history of Our Protestant Denomination.  Then there was the email asking whether I could come in on Saturday afternoon to work on the website text if I was so busy on Friday.  Or Saturday evening if that would work better.  The third email wanted to know why I hadn’t responded to his other emails.  The fourth email questioned my commitment to the work of the church and to my Christian faith.  He’s very busy and important and still finds time to serve the church, and I’m neither busy nor important, so perhaps I should re-examine my priorities.

I sent in response what I thought was a well reasoned, patient email.  I didn’t, for instance, suggest he shut his big assface before I shut it for him.   Actually, I wrote several emails that did suggest that.  But I didn’t send them.  I sent this one instead, with his requested materials attached:

Dear Church Guy,  I’m sorry the website isn’t coming together on the timeline you’d imagined.  That must be very frustrating, and I apologize for my contribution to any frustration you’re feeling.  I strive to fulfill all my professional obligations in a timely fashion and within my appointed hours of work.  As demonstrated by these attachments, I am more than willing and able to complete these sorts of requests, and I’m confident I could’ve completed your projects to your satisfaction by Friday had I had even a day’s notice.  But I am unable to discard other commitments for last minute additions to my workload, particularly if those additions take place after my scheduled workday has ended.   If you have ongoing concerns about my fulfillment of my duties, I encourage you to bring them up at the next meeting of the Pastor/Staff/Parish Relations Committee.  It will be held Monday, May 17 at 7pm.

Church Guy emailed me back to say, among other things, that he was too busy to go to meetings.

I restrained myself from emailing him back to suggest he was a bad Christian who isn’t committed to this church if he couldn’t go to a meeting.  Especially with two weeks’ notice.

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