Gossip can beat people down

Life is a journey with small and large potholes that can be easy or hard to navigate. But in the final analysis, and for purposes of this column, I would like to put it in terms of “gossip.”

Engaging in gossip can be a good thing. In fact, researchers suggest it was the way people in groups learned to communicate about other groups. It’s when one person talking to another person can benefit a third person. But there’s another type of gossip that serves no beneficial purpose other than to hurt someone or some group.

In truth, we are no better and no worse than anybody else. If we don’t strive to see all people as equals, then we are always going to be above or below them, but never getting to know someone at the same level.

When the journey ends, I want to come as close as I can to having feelings of humanity and compassion toward all who touched my life.

I love examples, so here is a hypothetical case in point of good gossip.

Two friends live in a small neighborhood and notice that someone new has moved in: a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. One friend finds out the single mother works long hours, and her oldest child helps with the younger child when the mother needs to work late at the office. With no other means of support, the young mother might have to work two to three nights a week.

Even though the hours are long for the mom, her children are proud of her because they know she works hard to keep them safe and protected.

Two friends in the neighborhood, who are well-known in their community, find out through the rumor mill, that this little family doesn’t know anybody in town. These two friends realize how hard that must be, so they offer their help in a number of ways. They bring food, they take the children to swim meets or other events, and they keep watch when the mother is working late even though the older child is capable of taking care of herself and brother.

The new family is grateful to these people for helping them adjust and including them in social functions.

Using the same scenario, but with the exception of the two friends being bad gossipers, the difference is night and day. After learning the “juicy” gossip, these friends call Social & Rehabilitation Services and they cloak it in the guise of “caring.”

That was not brotherly love and served no useful purpose except to see another human being suffer.

This is only one example, but gossip is everywhere. In schools, offices and, also for purposes of this column, in our county courthouse where we as taxpayers have trust our public servants to manage $28 million annually.

The average person isn’t able to attend Marion County commission meetings, but I think if they did, and if they care about what type of gossip is happening, they might not like it.

I am not saying everybody in the courthouse is spreading bad gossip, but it doesn’t take but a few people to have one commissioner’s ear for some of the most petty, ignorant and hurtful things to happen.

This time it isn’t hypothetical, and I hope Mr. Dallke is reading because he is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Apparently there are a couple of people he relies on to snoop for him. In turn, he likes to use this “bad gossip” to intimidate and crush another elected official’s spirit. I am proud of her for holding her head high, though.

My question to Mr. Dallke is this: When we have “real” problems in this county and “real” problems in our towns, why are you taking time to even listen to this bad gossip by these obviously very unhappy people who spread it?

These employees—and I do know who a few of them are—need to be at their desk and not spending time at the water cooler to find out gossip for the purpose of whom it can hurt.

If somebody doesn’t like an individual, then don’t talk to them or only talk about work-related topics. But I think the only way to get these rumormongers stopped is to stop reacting and ask them to return to work and mind their own business.

Or, if they have courage of their convictions, write a letter to the editor and tell all of us what they think is wrong. I would have much more respect for them if they did that. We have real problems in this county, and frankly people need to be thinking about what they can do to help in the bigger picture.

Patty Decker has written news and features for the Free Press for several years. You can reach her at patty­milo13@gmail.com.