Tag Archives: Politeness

How to Fail at Ignoring Jehovah’s Witnesses

First, imagine the books are in English. Replace the barrel-tile roofs with asphalt shingles. Then add a metric shit-ton of snow. Despite all of that, if the J-Dubs looked like the girl on the right, I probably answer the door. Just saying.

First, imagine the books are in English. Replace the barrel-tile roofs with asphalt shingles. Then add a metric shit-ton of snow. Despite all of that, if the J-Dubs looked like the girl on the right, I probably answer the door. Just saying.

I was pacing around the house as I often do while talking on the phone.

We were discussing the Cleveland Browns’ options in the upcoming NFL Draft in April.

And that’s when I noticed them next door.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They usually catch me when I’m outside mowing the grass, it seems. I’m always polite. I always try to be respectful and listen to what they have to say.

No matter what you believe, you have to admire people who are willing to risk rejection, mockery, rudeness, and much more for the sole purpose of trying to help you find peace. Salvation.

I admire it so much because I don’t think you would ever catch me doing something like that. I didn’t even like calling people for interviews when I was a newspaper reporter.

This morning was different, though. I was on the phone. I have a bunch of things to do. And it’s literally 12 degrees outside. In the sunshine. That’s Fahrenheit. That’s cold as shit. Icy shit. Shitcicles.

“Great. J-Dubs,” I muttered.

“What?” my friend on the phone asked.

“Door-to-door Jehovah’s Witness evangelists are out on the sidewalk. I haven’t shoveled my driveway or walk, so it will be interesting to see whether they brave it. I’m going to go hide in the back of the house until they go away,” I said.

My friend laughed.

“It’s got to be really cold just standing there on the porch, so I’m sure they won’t stay long,” I said.

I continued my phone conversation, pacing around my home office and down the hall to the guest bedroom and back again, out of the view of anyone outside the front of my house.

Wow. That’s a lot of dedication from the J-Dubs to be out on such a cold day sharing their messages of hope and goodwill. I really should have invited them in for coffee or hot chocolate, I thought, as my friend and I continued to kick around possible Cleveland Browns draft pick or trade options.

After several minutes, I wandered thoughtlessly into my kitchen to a place with a direct line of sight to right outside my front door where two ladies were standing.

I froze.

They were frozen, because it’s literally an icebox out there.

She looked up.

Our eyes locked.

Shit.

She had a furry, insulated hood pulled around her head. But she still looked cold.

I looked like a bum in old jeans, a fleece, and my hat gangsta’d to the side.

She stared in. Please come to the door. I need to tell you about Jesus.

I stared back. Oh shit. This is awkward.

“The Jehovah’s Witness lady just saw me,” I said into the phone.

*laughing*

“She did? What did you do?” he said.

“We made eye contact, then I just turned around and hid in the back of the house some more.”

*more laughing*

“They looked really cold.”

And now I have to go outside and shovel my driveway because I can’t get my snowblower to start.

I feel certain the Jehovah’s Witnesses will find me out there.

I’ll be swearing, muttering horribleness under my breath as I glance over at my lifeless machine.

They’ll hand me pamphlets. An invitation. Promise prayers.

And I’ll remember a mostly unknown Gym Class Heroes song I like:

“Maybe I would be a fool to think

“That somewhere in the sky’s a place for me.

“What good would it be to pray for me?

“You won’t save me. Don’t pray for me.”

But I won’t really mean that.

I have faith.

I do.

Even when my wife leaves.

Even when my face is frozen.

Even when the Cleveland Browns always lose.

Even when my snowblower won’t start and I have to shovel mountains of snow.

“Sorry God. I didn’t mean to be crappy to the J-Dubs. But honestly? I just want to get this bullshit shoveled so I can go make chili.”

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How are you Doing?

HOW-ARE-YOU-TODAY

I get asked this all the time.

I’m betting you do too.

I’m constantly asking it myself. Constantly answering it as well.

“I’m good! Thanks. How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you.”

“Pretty good. You?”

We ask and respond to this question all the time.

When I’m at my best, I offer a pleasant, polite, programmed response. I often don’t answer truthfully. Nor am I equipped to gracefully handle a truthful answer if things are shitty in the lives of whomever I’m speaking with.

Because nobody wants to hear the truth. We can’t handle the truth.

“My marriage is on the verge of breaking,” one of my friends could say.

“My father just passed away,” another would tell me.

“It’s over. We’re getting divorced. We file on Tuesday,” said another.

“My uncle just died. He was like a father to me,” said yet another. “And my best friend for 30 years was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Morpheus said that to Neo in The Matrix. Neo was still sorting everything out, adjusting to the harsh realities of the real world after having been living in an infinitely more pleasant dream world.

Not so different from how we experience life as blissfully unaware children and young adults only to mature into adulthood and discover what a magnificent job our parents really had done of sheltering us from all the shit flying around.

And this is where we find ourselves.

Divorced.

Angry.

Lonely.

Mourning.

Sad.

Desperate.

Stressed.

Grieving.

And things aren’t so simple now. I’m still programmed to tell everyone I’m good.

But am I good? And, when we’re not good—when everything feels like we’re being force fed the biggest pile of shit in history—how are we supposed to answer that question?

Should we lie?

Or should we speak the truth?

The Truth: Unplugged

Once in a great while, I don’t have the energy to lie.

“Not very well, actually! I’m sorry you asked,” I tell them.

Or, “Kinda shitty! How ‘bout you?”

Only your friends know how to deal with that response. But when your friends are asking, they actually care about the answer. They’re already invested in your story.

The people that tend to ask you this are strangers and acquaintances.

And what if we gave it to them straight in those moments? What if we didn’t give the easy response to avoid the awkwardness?

“I’m recently divorced. I miss my son and worry about money. Appreciate you asking, though! How are you?”

Or, an infinite number of other things that happen to people all the time.

“I just lost my job.”

“My mom’s in Hospice.”

“My husband’s having an affair.”

“I have colon cancer.”

“My son was arrested.”

“My daughter had a miscarriage.”

“My best friend died.”

And we’re supposed to be tough. We’re supposed to function. We’re not supposed to lose a step at work. We’re not supposed to make other people feel bad. We’re not supposed to get behind on chores at home. We’re not supposed to change.

But all of these things do change us.

And some of us are very convincing while wearing our masks. And some of us aren’t.

There are some days that are so bad, the mask can’t hide it.

But then someone walks by. Smiles.

“How are you doing, Matt?”

They’re not looking for a conversation. They were just being polite. They were just saying what so many of us are programmed to say.

I force the smile.

“I’m good!” I tell them. “Thank you for asking.”

Sometimes I add: “And you?”

And they always say they’re good, too.

But I know that can’t always be true. Because we’re all in this together. And everyone’s got something.

I agree with saying it even if it feels forced. Even if it feels like a lie. It’s the right play.

Tell them you’re good, even when you’re not.

Everyone has problems, and they needn’t carry ours, too.

But more importantly, I think our brains can be manipulated. I absolutely believe we can choose to feel good, choose to feel happy, choose to feel gratitude.

I’ve spent my life choosing to be an optimist and not a cynic.

And I’m going to keep choosing it.

And it’s not because I’m trying to make you feel better, even though I am.

And it’s not because I want to trick myself into feeling better, even though I do.

It’s because I’m right. It’s because being hopeful is the smarter, wiser, truer path, than being hopeless.

I was driving to work this morning. It was wet. Dark. Windy. The kind of morning that makes you wish you were back in bed.

But then the sun peeked over the horizon and began its daily climb. And you should have seen the brilliant leaves. Borrowing the sunshine. Manufacturing beauty with the rays.

I literally said aloud: “Yes.”

Because the sun always rises. Because the weather always cycles. Because the seasons always change.

I don’t feel good, but I will.

I don’t feel happy, but I will.

I don’t feel peaceful, but I will.

That’s hope.

At some point today, someone is going to ask me how I am. And I already know what I’m going to tell them.

I’m good.

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