A few minutes ago, the doorbell rang, and since Mrs. M was at the gym and the Spawn was in dishabille, it fell to me to respond. I wasn’t exactly dressed for company myself, not having put on a shirt yet, but hey, I live here. I came up the stairs, and on my way to the door, I saw a nice SUV in the drive. I glanced through the blinds, and saw that my visitors were a couple of African American ladies of a certain age, and I realized who they were.
I opened the door enough to get my head out, and one of the ladies said, “It looks like we caught you at a bad time.”
“Yes, ma’am.” So she handed me a Watch Tower, we exchanged smiles, and they went on their way.
I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses have become a punchline in popular culture (one I’ve been known to use myself), and a lot of people like to complain about how annoying they are. I can understand that, but they’ve never really bothered me. I don’t subscribe to their particular brand of Christianity, but I understand that they’re trying to help me when they come by — they’re trying to gain me the blessings of Heaven, and they’re taking time out of their day to do that. I suspect that’s more than a lot of us do. My time is not so valuable that I can’t spare a little to receive someone’s effort to bless me.
My first encounter with the Witnesses came when I was fifteen and living in Kentucky. I was in an agnostic period of my life then, a couple of years after the death of my closest childhood friend. It was a time that lasted until I got to college, and during that time I read the texts of a number of major religions, from the Quran to the Tao Te Ching to The Book of Mormon. So when the doorbell rang one morning when my folks were at work, I opened the door, and when the two women on my porch asked me if I knew there would be a new Heaven and a new Earth, I said, “Revelations 21.”
Their eyebrows rose — “Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?”
“No, ma’am. Just a backsliding Presbyterian.” They seemed a bit surprised that I could talk about Biblical stuff with them, and I guess I asked good questions, including some they said I might need to discuss with folks higher on the food chain.
We talked for at least half an hour, and they left me not only the usual pamphlets, but a small hardbound book about their beliefs. I remember it as being orange, but I could be wrong. They said they’d like to talk to me some more in the future. I told them I would read the book and get back to them. They came back about a month later, but my mom was home, and explained to them that their attendance was no longer needed. She told me later that once a Witness had told her that since my brother had heart surgery as a baby and received a blood transfusion, he was likely damned. Of course, Mom also had heart surgery and received blood, so she was on the hit list, too — but the idea of Mike being condemned for something that happened when he was six months old cut little ice with her. As for me, I have a blood donation appointment on Friday.
As I said, I know a lot of folks see them as a nuisance, but I don’t. In fact, I’m glad I live in a place where people of good will — even those with whom I disagree — can visit and try to help other people. So even though I’m not going to visit the Kingdom Hall any time soon, I’m glad they’re out there, and I’m grateful that they think about me enough to try to save me.
And if we’re all lucky, I’ll be wearing a shirt next time.