We were in the car outside the library, just about to pull away from the curb, when I noticed some movement in the rearview mirror. Walking towards the car were two clean-cut young men, black backpacks, white button-front shirts, little black name tags.
“Missionaries!” I yelled. “Look kids! LDS missionaries!” The children looked at me confused.
Flustered, I briefly considered turning off the car, unfastening my seat belt and hailing the unsuspecting young men, but they were already walking past my car and as excited as I am to see missionaries, I’m not prepared to chase them down the street. Instead, I smiled widely, waved like a maniac, and shouted “Hi!” at them through the open car window.
They very politely smiled and waved back without pausing in their travel down the sidewalk, probably wondering if everyone in this town is so friendly or if they’d just encountered a crazy woman.
Seriously, though, I have been just aching to talk with some missionaries.
I’ve always enjoyed talking with LDS missionaries. They’re so friendly and so enthusiastic about talking about theology and so sane relative to a lot of the other people who come to my door peddling religion or telecommunications services.
The fact that I’ve been feeling homesick for Utah only heightens my desire to talk with missionaries. I was hoping I’d see some in Washington, DC. I don’t know why I thought they’d be there, I just had an image in my mind of missionaries on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I imagined going up and saying something like, “Hi! How’s it going? Where are you from? How long have you been here? I lived in Utah for three years!” I fully expected the conversation to peter out from there, but I was ready, nonetheless. Of course, I didn’t see any missionaries when I was expecting them. They had to sneak up on me when I was in no position to accost them with my inane questions and rather desperate desire for connection.
While I missed my chance today, knowing that there are at least two missionaries right here in my town gives me hope that, if the kids and I continue walking around our little city like we usually do, I’ll have an opportunity to talk with them again.
Or maybe they’ll come to my door. I can only hope. Just in case, I’ll make sure I’m wearing something besides the ratty tank top and “lounge pants” I wear to bed and around the house on days we’re not planning to go out.
Hey! If I do see them, maybe they’ll let me interview them for my blog!
13 Replies to “Look, Kids! Missionaries!”
My sister and her husband (and his entire family) are LDS, so I am always polite to missionaries who come by. Granted I open with “I am not going to convert”, but depending on the weather I offer them some cocoa or ice water.
For no apparent reason, lots (6-8 at a time) of Mormon missionaries tended to lunch in the park in Laurel, MD that I took my kids to when we lived there. Laurel must have been a fertile field. That’s the only place in the DC area I ever saw Mormon missionaries, though.
Funny! Thanks for the comment, Cheri!
I think you are very brave. Only the word missionary makes me cringe and get all my defenses up. I have nothing against the people themselves, but the concept I find disturbing. I would be petrified in front of them.
When I was in college I was pretty combative when speaking with missionaries. I was a 19-year-old religion minor; clearly I knew more about religion than they did, and I was going to show them just that. But it’s tough to remain combative with people who are gentle, patient, and kind. It wasn’t the lesson I think they’d intended to teach, but it was the one that I learned.
As an adult, I find that I listen to missionaries with a more open mind. I’m very curious about what brings someone to such a strong faith in things that, to me, seem so difficult to accept. I also really enjoy finding common ground. Living in Utah helped a lot to dispel my pre-conceived notions about the LDS church and to give me an appreciation for the culture and the individuals in the church as distinct from the negative images we get as part of the general public (and the public policies of the church as an organization). Learning about the history of this most successful of “American” religions has also been incredibly interesting. It really is a unique religion.
Living in Utah also introduced me to several other missionaries and missionaries of other faiths who became pretty close friends of mine. This helped me to realize that those trying to spread their faith are doing so mainly because they have found a path that brings them comfort and brings meaning to their lives, and they’re trying to share that with me. When I think that way, I actually feel kind of privileged when they speak with me about faith, even though I’m content in my own religious beliefs (and even though sometimes the zeal of the convert is a little overwhelming).
The only thing that stops me now is my own social awkwardness, which has nothing at all to do with religion. 🙂
Aww, this made my day. As a practicing member of the LDS faith, I am always sweating bullets someone will embarrass or misrepresent me as they claim to represent what I believe (Glen Beck, anyone?). I am happy you have positive impressions of the missionaries. Their faraway mothers would be glad to know they were waved at so enthusiastically. Thanks for your kindness. (And really, I highly doubt any of your questions would be inane. From the stories my friends and husband tells of life on the mission, very little surprises them.)
Thanks for your comment, kaimalino! I can imagine not much would surprise them, now that you mention it. They probably see quite a lot traveling about on foot/by bicycle. And if the rather rough neighborhood where we lived across the hall from four missionaries is an indication of the kinds of places they usually live for their missions, they probably have more surprising interactions just leaving their apartments in the morning.
I get them a couple times a year to my door. They are so nice, and it’s nice to talk to them because they don’t seem to be very judgmental.
They really are nice, aren’t they? We never got Mormon missionaries at our door in Utah (just Jehovah’s Witnesses and some guy with scary eyes who was with some kind of offshoot sect and preached in the park), but we had four female missionaries living across the hall from us in East Palo Alto. They were very giggly. There were a couple of missionaries I talked with for about an hour in my dorm sophomore year of college. In retrospect, I’m impressed that they braved the haze of cigarette smoke to talk with me.
lol! I have to say that more than once I’ve approached missionaries to chat. My family converted when I was about 4 so I have great memories of missionaries coming to ‘play’ at my house, cute missionaries coming to dinner when I was a teen and then when my brother was serving his mission I felt like if I was kind to random missionaries maybe someone would be kind to him in his (big, bad) foreign country. I’m sure they are used to crazy woment approaching them!
Well, I’m glad to hear that it (perhaps) won’t be so strange if I go up to them next time I see them. Now I’m going to really be on the lookout. Thanks for the comment, Heather!
You know, there’s a really easy way to get missionaries to show up at your door… Just let your token Mormon friend know you want them. Ha!
I knew someone would offer! Actually, I like the element of chance. Plus, you really shouldn’t do that to these nice young men.