While going through graduate school I am working at a gas station. Sounds unappealing I know but to be fair it’s not too bad most days. It’s a mile from my house which makes it impossible to be late (believe me, I’ve tried) and also helps me save on gas. It’s in a perfect location by itself on a major state highway so it does great business and in a good shift I probably see a few hundred people. Some are weird, some are memorable, some pass by with me hardly noticing and a few are a bit quirky. This post is about some quirky ones.
A woman walked in a few weeks ago. Her head is buzzing back and forth everywhere, mainly because she can’t find anything. She locates the coffee corner and in the process of making her cup asks where everything is. It’s a pretty fun game of me pointing and yelling out directions and her looking exactly where I am not indicating. Against all odds she finishes making her cup and comes up to my register. She buys her cup and as she leaves she awkwardly passes me a Christian tract over the counter. A few days later another woman comes in and after walking out comes back in to hand me a mini New Testament and Psalms. A few days ago the same quirky coffee lady comes in, makes her cup and this time gives me two tracts.
Now before I give my full analysis of these two women’s actions let me be clear on something. I am a Christian who has no qualms about calling out what I see as misguided, hurtful, stupid or just plan wrong things that people of my faith do or say. However I was brought up to NEVER make fun of someone’s genuinely held beliefs. My next paragraph may come off as a bit harsh and perhaps even judgmental but whatever these women’s true beliefs are I respect them and the fact they believe in them strongly enough to do what they are doing. So now we are clear.
By all accounts these ladies are doing little more than lazy evangelism. They don’t know that I go to church, read the Bible, have done overseas missions work. They didn’t even ask. They awkwardly threw some printed words at me and ran out the door. What they seem to be avoiding is any attempt at building a relationship.
It occurs to me as I write this that maybe past (negative) experience has taught them not to build a conversation. Maybe they are simply part of a cult (though their tracts gives no indication of this.) Whatever the reason what they are doing seems completely antithetical to not only anything I would do but also to what the Bible says.
I just met you and the first thing I want to start talking about is religion and faith? Perhaps, but this misses the point. Talking to people you don’t know about ANYTHING personal is going to be awkward. After an introduction and perhaps some small talk things may start to emerge that lead in that direction. Given where I am in life its hard not to mention that before I started my teaching program I taught in the Czech Republic. Yes it was with a Christian organization and yes I considered myself a missionary of sorts. Total conversation time 3 minutes.
Here’s my point: these ladies mean well but by negating any responsibility to build any sort of relationship with the people they give materials to they are severely undercutting any positive effect their tracts hope to have. People are inherently relational and the foundational theme of the Bible is that God was willing to go to such great lengths to be in relationship with us.
It’s not easy for me to talk to my customers if they don’t start the conversation themselves but next time these ladies come in I might just try and start one with them. At least that way I can say I wasn’t being lazy.