I was walking in downtown Phoenix to meet a good friend for lunch recently, when a woman crossed paths with me and handed me a small tome. "Would you like a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs?" she asked.
"Sure, thanks," I said, and I really meant it. I tucked the light-blue pocket-size book into my purse, and since then have moved it from purse to purse, bag to bag. I haven't opened it and read it, but I like having it with me.
I thought about what my reaction might have been as recent as a year ago, had I been "accosted" by a "religious zealot."
Several years ago, when my son was a first grader and I was married to his dad, we were living in a tree-lined street in Holt, Mich., when two women knocked on our door.
"We have an important message to deliver," one of them said. "Are you happy with the way the world seems to be moving these days?"
I glanced down at their name tags and saw they were there on behalf of their church, the Latter Day Saints. Our street seemed to be a favorite route of Jehovah's Witnesses and members of the Church of LDS.
"I'm not interested," I said firmly.
"But, ma'am, don't you care about the world?"
"I'm not interested in what you have to say," I said.
"Our message is really important," she insisted.
This time, I raised my voice and said, "I'm not interested in what you have to say, and I want you off my porch immediately."
"But, ma'am ..."
"GET OFF MY PORCH!"
I closed the door, slid the lock in place and turned around to see my sweet-faced son staring up at me.
"Mommy, what did those ladies DO?" he asked. I'd used my angry mommy voice with those women, and he assumed they'd done something REALLY bad.
In those few seconds between sliding the lock in place and turning around to see my son's innocent concern, I went from feeling violated and angry to feeling like a complete asshole.
"They didn't do anything wrong," I said. "They believe in something so strongly that they want to tell the world about it because it makes them happy and they want everyone to feel that happiness. I didn't handle that very well."
"No, you were good! You were really good!" my son said.
I still don't like it when someone knocks at my door and pushes their agendas on me, whether they are political, religious or business-related - and whether I agree with them or not. That's my home!
But I've softened my defenses because, one, I respect their beliefs; two, I believe we cross paths with each other for reasons; three, I actually admire someone who can embrace any cause or issue enough to take it door to door (thought I still prefer they'd skip my door); and four, I feel better about myself when I handle something with grace and class, versus being a complete asshole about it.