People fret a lot about me being at the church alone. I don’t fret because I am, well, a grown up and appropriately confident in my abilities to look after myself and in the statistical unlikelihood of being murdered in the workplace. The church is on a busy highway, and, like most churches, we get periodic visits from down on their luck people of various stripes. On my first day here, a nice middle aged woman gave me an extra large can of wasp spray and explained it could be used like mace from a couple of dozen feet away. I keep the doors locked when I’m here alone, and when people I don’t know come to the front door I keep them outside and hold the door open.

Generally I have extremely mixed feelings about this arrangement because it requires such a measure of judgment. Not the kind of judgment parents of teenagers bang on about: the sort that we apply to others deeming them fit or unfit, nice or mean, ugly or pretty, and so on. I believe that we should respect our intuition concerning other people. If someone creeps me out for reasons I can’t quantify, I pay them a cautious attention. But I also realize that part of what makes a person seem threatening is culturally bound. Is someone too poor or too mentally ill or too, you know, not white? Is that what triggers my sense of danger?

Churches shouldn’t be afraid of serving people who are otherwise rejected by mainstream society. I really believe this. If someone comes here straight from their meth lab or from a fist fight or from a whore house, we should treat them as courteously as we treat someone who came straight from ministering to orphans and widows or what have you. It seems to me that this is what Jesus would do. It seems clearly expressed in the Bible as anything.

But I am very interested in not getting raped and murdered.

A few minutes ago, a guy came to the door wanting to ask some questions about an upcoming event we’re hosting. Local schoolchildren receive free school supplies and medical screenings and a chance to “shop” for donated clothes. It’s Thursday from eight to four, I said. I gave him the phone number of the organization holding the event after explaining that we’re only the host site and not the folks in charge so he couldn’t come in and ask me questions. I kept a white knuckle grasp on the door handle while he stood outside. If you caught this guy on the way out of the parking lot and asked him the color of my hair or whether I’m wearing lipstick, he wouldn’t’ve been able to tell you. He never once raised his eyes above my collar bones. And he kept licking his lips.

I am not saying that guy’s going to rape and/or murder anyone. Maybe he’s shy and thus refuses eye contact. Maybe he’s a perfectly nice guy, albeit a perfectly nice guy who seems old to have elementary aged children and who has overwhelming body odor and a disturbing tic. In case any or all of those things are true I was as cordial as I could be. But as soon as I wished him a pleasant afternoon, I shoved the door closed. I’m one hundred percent comfortable with this.

Now I have to go drag 150 lbs of dry beans to our local food pantry. Our birthday beans drive was a success. As was my crusade yesterday to cure my neck crick. May the success of one not destroy the success of the other.

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