I was stunned when people started accusing me of forcing my religion on them. I couldn’t imagine how my decision to close my business down on a Sunday could be forcing my religion on them or anyone else. I admire people of all beliefs who stand up for their convictions—even through their business.
Before taking over the small one screen movie theater we looked at the numbers and saw that the theater was losing money by being open on Sundays. This was important to our decision to take it over, because we have always tried to make Sundays a day that we worship God and spend time with loved ones. We also noticed that many of the businesses in the little rural town closed on Sundays and we saw our decision as fitting in with the values of the community.
Little did we know that there was a vocal minority who would became very upset by our decision. This group began emailing everyone they knew and spreading rumors about us in an attempt to reverse our decision. Closing on Sundays was important to me and my family and they wanted to pressure us into staying open. So in a way, they could be accused of trying to force their religion on us.
An experience we had had a year or two earlier in Colorado was a major inspiration for deciding to take over the theater. Near our home in Colorado the nearest theater had tickets priced around $14 per person. Needless to say, we didn’t take our entire family to the theater very often. At least not until they had a special summer program where the prices were greatly reduced on certain kid-friendly movies. Our entire family loved this program and had many great memories of going to the theater together.
We wanted to recreate this experience for others. We dreamed of owning a theater that was family friendly and affordable. Our cheap prices made it possible for families to come together. Several people suggested we raise the prices on tickets or the dollar concessions, but this was an important piece of the experience we wanted to offer. Many in the town were already accustomed to driving elsewhere for movies that weren’t available at a one screen theater. Also, the records showed that the biggest money makers were the family friendly movies.
I was stunned again as I was accused a second time of forcing my religion when someone noticed that we hadn’t gotten the ‘R’ rated movies they thought we should be playing. Our family would be the ones running the theater and it was up to us what we offered the community. Most of the feedback we were receiving was positive, but there were a few who were upset. Did we ever show movies that I didn’t like and didn’t watch? Yes, we did provide movies that I know my husband hated to listen to in the concession stand. Sometimes it was due to giving into pressure, the only movie we could get, or just a lack of research on our part. But overall I felt like we brought in many movies that would appeal to families or be a good uplifting movie for date night.
As I have pondered this experience and now see many people lashing out at each other on social media and in the news. I have wondered what would of made a difference to me, in a small town where those against my decision to close felt the need to speak cruelly to my face or even worse—behind my back. There was no attempt to discuss or understand by those who sent out emails to many people in hopes of gaining support and forcing us to open on Sundays or close because no one would come to our business.
I can tell you what helped: Those who kept coming to our theater and those who said thanks for providing us with an uplifting or clean movie. I’m grateful for those few people who said, “I love that you are closed on Sundays”. They had no idea that their words—so simple—gave me the strength to keep going. I now want to be that for someone else, but how? Maybe by being more aware of those around me and thanking them for the work they do. Telling them I admire them for sticking to their convictions, even if I don’t have the same beliefs.
I hope as a country we can just “agree to disagree” and move forward. I can’t change the world, but I’m going to do my part by teaching my children to accept and love people where they are and not attempt to take away others freedoms. Differences are good in people and in businesses. We need each other. Live by your convictions every day of the week and let others do the same. It is a difficult concept to understand, but by example I know they will get it.
How can you make your corner of the world better?