I wasn’t 30 seconds into my presentation when the householder told me I wasn’t allowed to be there. Wasn’t I? There were no signs to that effect.
I seldom pay attention to whether I am allowed or not. Surely an offer to “read a scripture, you tell me what you think, and I’m gone”—should not trigger a response too ballistic—and this is what I mostly do. I have even observed, right before a “No Soliciting” sign*, that I did indeed notice it and “was a little concerned that you might think it applied to me. It doesn’t, but you might think that it does.” It is simply to clarify—no intent to argue.
You don’t stay where you’re not wanted. Of course, off I will go, but not with my tail between my legs, as though admitting that I had been up to no good. I am not up to no good. I am up to good, and I like when that is the impression that remains.
I can usually parry aside with good nature such remarks like not being allowed—but in this case the woman just got madder and madder. So I turned to go with my tail between my legs, when my companion said: “You do know that we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, right?” I braced for the conflagration set by his pouring gas on the fire.
Companions don’t always behave like the silhouetted figures of the demonstrations, you know. There was even one companion, long ago, who would so reliably trip me up with completely irrelevant interjections—just about nail that point on the resurrection, and he would say: “What about that Trinity?”—that on approaching one return visit I said: “I don’t want you to say anything except: ‘I agree.’” Instantly I was filled with remorse, for he is on my team, after all, but I needn’t have feared. He took it as a great joke—he knows how he is—and throughout the afternoon he happily parroted: “I don’t want you to say anything except: ‘I agree.’”
My present companion then added for the irate householder’s benefit that “the U.S. Supreme Court has guaranteed our right to preach door to door,” and I braced for the nuclear detonation that he had set off. I mean, there is such a thing as a proper time and a place.
To my surprise, however, he had said exactly the right thing. It turned out that this person had nothing at all against Jehovah’s Witnesses—she admired them. What she was cranked up about was that she, too, wanted to go door to door in behalf of her church for some upcoming event and the neighborhood association had told her that she could not—it wasn’t “allowed.” She didn’t know why it should not be allowed. It should be, she thought, but it was not. Jehovah’s Witnesses do it, she said to the neighborhood chief, and the reply that they should not either. So that’s what she was upset with—that we were doing it, but she could not.
I told her that she should. After all, who was she going to listen to—the judge of the entire inhabited earth, or the street boss? If you truly do have what you think is good news, you don’t just sit on it, Jesus said. You put your lamp right up there on the lamp stand so that others can benefit from it—who cares if the street boss would take it down? A “No Trespassing” sign on someone’s own home is a sign to respect—you do not violate those—but not so with just the directive of a third party unless there is unmistakable evidence that the householder is in accord with it.
This particular neighborhood chief didn’t even care. She had told the woman: “Celeste, if I don’t know about it, then there is no problem.” She has enough things to do rather than enforce some stupid directive that she doesn’t care about anyway.
Our conversation became downright pleasant and extended much longer than I had ever intended. She was easily drawn out about her own principles, and she described in some detail how she put herself out on behalf of others—in the case of one alcoholic neighbor, seemingly whether that was desired or not—I mean, it was almost to the point of stalking. Nonetheless, she revealed a good motive. I told her that she was plainly a person with a good conscience, and that she should listen to it more—don’t be bullied into submission by some neighborhood boss who didn’t care anyway. But she said that her conscience told her she had to obey the rules. Sigh....and people say we are the ones unable to think for ourselves.
I’ll call back, this time with my wife. How will it turn out? Will it be a relationship to build upon or will she revert to saying that I am not allowed?
*Do not answer: “We’re not soliciting,” if accused of such. I mean, say it if you like, but don’t forget to wave the red flag before the bull. Half the time, you are wrong, anyway, because soliciting goes beyond dealing with money—if it was confined to that we’d be fine every time. Even asking for an opinion is technically soliciting, though not everyone has that in mind. It is one reason that I simply begin with the offer to read a scripture—I don’t know how anyone can get soliciting out of that. What you can say about soliciting is: “I’ll make sure not to do that.” Just don’t get in anyone’s face—why would anybody want to behave that way?