In Kate Braestrup’s book Here if You Need Me she has this fabulous part about being the parent volunteer to teach the “morality” aspect of their sexuality education curriculum. And somehow she ends up telling them this (very summarized) story:
She was walking into the YMCA to go swimming with her kids. They all had cards to the Y but they never used them, just waving to the woman behind the desk and heading in. But one time they showed up to go swimming and the woman behind the desk said that they had to swipe the cards. Braestrup was annoyed, and had to dig through all of the bags to find the cards, and when she eventually did she was abrupt and curt in swiping them. But in the changing room she started feeling bad about how she’d acted, and put her street clothes back on to go apologize.
Now, let me tell you about my post-work pre-date day.
I left work at 3 to head to the bank to try to revive my long-dormant account. My current bank account is with the “First National Bank of Bar Harbor” which, shockingly enough, has a lack of branches around these parts. I went to the bank, and finally got all of that settled, and rewarded myself with a cup of coffee. I walked through the square, got a hug from a good friend, and was about to cross the street to head down into the subway when a woman stops me.
“Can I tell you about Jesus?” she asked, eagerly.
“Only if I can tell you about the Prophet Muhammad,” I responded, assuming that would end the conversation.
“Here, take some information about Jesus and his eternal love,” she said, handing me a tract.
“Only if I can give you some information on Unitarian Universalism” I responded, grabbing one of those principles and sources cards out of my wallet (now you all know that deep dark secret about me… I carry those cards around).
She smiled, and it was a mostly-pleasant interraction, all in all. But I didn’t really want to repeat it. I wanted to catch a train and bury my nose in a book. I wanted to get home with enough time to eat dinner and get ready for my date.
But then I crossed the street, turned the corner, and I met her counterpart. Same church, same tracts, way different personality.
“Have you heard the good news about Jesus?” she asked.
“Oh for chrissakes, no, I don’t want a tract.” I said, rudely walking away from her.
Look, I know that evangelists get blown off a lot. I know that they are ignored and cursed at and that they are expecting these things when they hit the pavement to save souls. I know that. But it doesn’t make it OK for me to be rude. And as I rode that first escalator down I thought, “wow, that really wasn’t affirming that woman’s worth and dignity.” and a few seconds later, “I’ve been in a similar position to her, and she really does think she’s doing the right thing,” and finally I thought,
“DAMNIT KATE BRAESTRUP.”
I turned around, got back on the up escalator.
Walked out the doors.
Approached the woman.
“I’m sorry for being rude to you. That was uncalled for.”
She smiled at me, “It’s ok, honey.” she responded with a smile.
And then I got on the train, buried my nose in a book, walked home, got ready for my date, and had a pretty nice evening.