Friday, May 6, 2011

Knocking in the Rain

"Ugh! I don't have time for this!  WHAM!"
The door slammed in my face as the rain fell gently on my stack of crinkled fliers.
So ended my quickest exchange during about two hours of delivering handouts for Community Connections.   I didn't even get a word in before the door crashed shut!  Yet what's amazing about that all-too-brief exchange is that it was the only door that was not opened graciously.  In fact, when I explained why I was knocking - to invite people to a free dinner where they could get to know neighbors and find out about resources in our community - almost every person was thankful and interested.  Below I've summarized some interactions and how my stereotypes were often uprooted. Today's visits took place in a large, lower-income apartment complex nearby.
  • One older woman opened the door suspiciously, but when I told her the free meal was hosted by our church she said, "Oh, I've always wanted to see what that church looks like inside!"  I replied, "Well, now is your chance!"  She laughed saying, "I think I'll come."  
  • Two young men in their 20's who looked like they could be college athletes looked intently at the flier I gave them, and then said, "Cool.  This looks good.  Thanks for letting us know about this!" They warmly extended their hands to shake.  
  • There was a woman in her early 60's, perhaps, who said she attended our church a couple of times last summer, probably while I was on vacation.  "I've wanted to go back, but I've been taking care of my roommate for several months.  She had cancer." She paused. "I'm sorry" I told her.  "How is she now?"  As tears welled up in her eyes she said, "She died last week." 
  • One young man in his 20's answered the door and listened as I explained how the event would be an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other.  "Really?" he said.  "My roommate and I just moved here and we don't know anyone yet; this would be good."  We chatted some more and he lamented that since moving from Medford to attend PSU he hasn't gotten used to the rain.  Join the club, huh?
  • At another apartment a somewhat familiar looking woman answered.  As she took a long drag on the stub of a cigarette she said, "Hey. I know you.  My boyfriend and I came down to your church at Christmastime and you gave us food."  She was right, but I couldn't remember her name.  She wondered how receptive people were being to my visits.  "Well, it seems like people in apartments are sometimes more interested than people in houses" I told her.  She then asked, "Is that because we are all hungry and poor?"  I think she might have a point.  The economically poor are often more open to building relationships with neighbors because they simply need those connections for mutual support to survive. 
  • Several times I was surprised with how trusting people were.  At one apartment a dog barked manically when I knocked.  I heard a woman yell something.  I couldn't make it out until she yelled it a couple more times.  "Come in!"  This seemed odd.  Come in? I opened the door just a crack but couldn't see anyone yet.  So I said, "Hi. I'm dropping off a flier to invite you to a free meal at the church down the hill."  She called out,  "Okay.  I'm sorry I can't come to the door.  I just broke my leg and I'm laid up in bed."  And yet she was comfortable letting a stranger in her door. 
I confess that I really didn't want to distribute fliers today.  It seemed too dreary to face wary people.  But I was so glad I went out.  It was a good day to connect.  I can't help but wonder how God might use not only our meal, but also our efforts leading up to the May 17 event.  I'm praying that at least 100 people from the community attend.  What God does with it all is what's going to be truly remarkable. 
- Curtis