From time to time they ring my doorbell. Usually on a Saturday morning, not too early. And that makes sense. People like me are usually home, still lolling around in their pyjamas and recovering from the bloodbath of a busy week over coffee.
So when the bell rings this morning, I am pretty sure I knew who to expect. Glancing through the little window in my front door, I see a young woman on the other side with a young man a few feet behind her. She in spectacles, pony tail, no make up, casual blouse and slacks. He in the tell-tale white shirt and pants.
Grabbing the doorknob, I shift instantly and unconsciously into Jehovah Witness defense mode.
I know they’re only doing what they’ve been told they must, to save as many souls as possible. Because that is, in fact, the price of their own ticket to God’s heaven. It’s a dirty job, but by God, they’ve got to do it. And so they endure the snubs, the rudeness and verbal abuse, the door slamming.
But I’m not a door slammer. As I do with telemarketers, I give my JW friends the courtesy of delivering their preliminary pitch. It’s only a few seconds of my time and it’s the least I can do for a fellow human being who’s just trying to get by in this cruel life. Each time, the pitch is a little different, but it’s usually no more than a polite greeting and announcement that they’re here, they have something to tell you, would you have a minute to hear about God?
So I am unprepared for what comes next. I say hello, peering around my door, not so much to hide my half-dressed body as to protect myself from their imposition.
“Hello,” she smiles. She motions to a stack of pamphlets cradled in the crook of one arm, graphic depictions of some dystopia that I don’t linger on so as not to appear interested. “We’ve just been talking to your neighbours,” she says, “About anxiety.”
This is brilliant! She is brilliant! Who is her communications or sales advisor, I want to meet him or her. This is the pitch that cannot fail to engage every single soul at every doorway.
Do you know anyone today who is not riddled with anxiety? From the doom and gloom of climate change, income inequality, terrorism to ever-demanding work schedules and ever decreasing work-life balance? Failed or failing or no relationship, trying to have kids and/or coping with the demands once they’ve had them? The horrors of online dating, mountains of student debt, dim job prospects, pressures to be thin and have fitness model muscular definition? Having to look forever young? Who hasn’t seen a therapist, done some cognitive behavioural therapy, been prescribed an antidepressant, taken a mindfulness meditation course, tried yoga to fend off the anxiety monster???
So I applaud her. In my mind, of course. Before she can utter another word, I gently begin to close the door. “Sorry,” I shake my head and smile demurely, “I’m not interested.” The energy in them shifts but ever so slightly. They move from the pitch to capitulation, yet again. With resignation, they slowly relax and thank me as they start to turn around. “Thanks, have a nice day,” I call after them. They nod distractedly and carry on down my front steps. I always feel guilty at this stage but it’s clear they’ve built up a certain immunity to rejection. They turn on to the sidewalk as I close the door and head back to my coffee.
Jesus, I think. What next? Will this new pitch actually draw in some poor souls down my street who just need a friendly ear, a lover, a dog?
I feel a knot developing in my stomach.