When I lived in Echo Park, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would knock on my door every few months on a Saturday morning at 10:30 on the dot. Doesn’t matter what month they showed up, they ALWAYS knocked on my door at 10:30am on the dot, and always on a Saturday. I used to suspect that their canvassing of the neighborhood started at *my* house, on their assumption *I* was the one most in need of help in my neighborhood. Occasionally as a child I had to sell chocolate bars, jewelry, and kaymak door-to-door, so I’m a smidgen sensitive to their plight. And it’s gotta be a rough gig to be rejected 99% of the time, so as a rule I try to be courteous to them, even though I’m not interested in their dogma and I’m eager to get back to whatever sinful thing I was doing just before they interrupted me. I would also try to be polite when the Mormons came by. The Mormons didn’t come by as often as the Jehovah’s Witnesses did, but the Mormons did make an occasional appearance. When either group would knock at my door, I’d usually say something like, “I appreciate your presence in our neighborhood, but I’m not interested in augmenting my theology.” It was a gracious sentiment, but it also allowed me to flaunt my mastery of the words “augmented” and “theology”, and that was a very attractive reason to use that phrase. Generally, I’ve always found Mormons to be pleasant to deal with. That’s a stereotype that works in their favor, I guess. The good thing about Mormons is that they travel in such a non-clandestine, honest way. Unless you’re brain-dead about what’s going on in your neighborhood, you’re gonna notice the clean-cut, (usually Caucasian), bicycle-riding lads in white, short-sleeved, dress shirts and black ties, and then think to yourself, “Mormons are in town. Better hide in the basement!” I never hid in the basement, because I didn’t have a basement. And also because the Mormons tend to be pleasant to deal with. (See above.) I appreciated that The Mormons gave me fair warning. I can’t fully parse their dogma, but I can totally appreciate how they don’t hide. And how they bravely enter neighborhoods they are unfamiliar with.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses were fairly visible in the community. I saw them most often when I was standing at the bus stop on Echo Park and Sunset on the way to work. They too were fairly easy to spot because they wore their best Sunday clothes, walked leisurely down the street in groups, carried leather book bags, stopped frequently to talk to other people, and to hand out lots of copies of Watchtower and Awake! I rode the bus for quite some time, so fairly often I’d spy some Jehovah’s Witnesses walking in my direction, I’d sigh to myself and think, “Oh great. Here we go! A bunch of those Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to gang up on me and try to save my soul. Yep. Those overzealous proselytizers are gonna walk right up to me, interrupt my whole book-reading thing with some cheesy opening line like, ‘So, I see you like to read — have you read The Watchtower?’ And then they’re gonna segue into a sermon about how my soul is impure, that the earth is going to end in a few years, and that there are only 144,000 spots alongside the big man, so I’m doomed to nothingness for eternity! But then they’re gonna tell me that if I act now, I might be able to save my soul, impress the heavenly overlords and score myself a spot in paradise, or if I’m really good, one of those rare 144,000 seats. Yep. Better lay low.” And then those Jehovah’s Witnesses would walk right up to where I was standing, and then continue walking right past me without a pause or hesitation in their step. And each time that happened to me, I was TOTALLY offended! “What?! I’m not good enough to save?!”
[c] 2010 Russ of America
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