I grew up on a dairy farm just outside the city limits. Summer time was bliss. Those warm hazy days, the smell of hay that tickled my nose, the smell of the cows that wasn't so delightful. Life. Was. Good.
Saturdays we had our chores. And Mom's coffee clatch. A circle of ladies around the oak table, sipping coffee, munching cookies, cackling like old hens. Ah. good memories. I remember my sister racing the get the mopping done, before these ladies arrived. Sometimes they were greeted by old newspapers spread on the floor to allow them to walk across still damp floors.
Because we ran a dairy farm, that meant milk. Back in the day there were no strict regulations about whether or not you could draw fresh milk from the tank and offer it to your neighbors. We had a few 'customers' who showed up weekly with their large mason jars or jugs to get milk, leaving a dollar or two in the tin in the milk room, on the honor system. Sometimes though, they'd come to the back door to ask for help. Opening the tank valve was a daunting task that required skill and timing. I remember a time or two of not getting the valve to close properly and lost many precious gallons of milk in the process.
Because we lived in the country and because of the layout of the house, or maybe just because, everyone came to our back door. No one rang the front door unless they were strangers. Perhaps the strangers we knew the best were the Saturday Morning variety. The ones who came in sets of 2 or 3's, car parked at the edge of the driveway, men in suits, ladies in dowdy dresses. All carrying literature.
Ah, I think you know what variety of Saturday Morning guests I am talking about. we called them "The J.W.'s."
We were Christians and firm in our beliefs. Occasionally my dad might engage them in conversation, firmly refusing their literature and quoting scripture back at them but mostly I just remember that the most employed technique was that of avoiding them. As in, don't. answer. the. door.
Because our house had large LARGE windows in the dining room and living room, if we saw them pulling up to the yard, we'd ske-daddle as quickly as we could to another part of the house where we'd be able to unashamedly NOT ANSWER THE DOOR. It always has baffled me that they would stand on the front porch stoop ringing the bell and waiting, waiting, waiting for us to give up our hiding place and come to the door. Did they know we were home? Hiding? What went through their minds as they stood there hoping someone would come and answer the door?
As a child of 7 or 8, I quickly learned that these darkly dressed figures were meant to be avoided, that strangers at the door meant trouble and scurrying to hiding places was the best way to deal with things. Non-confrontational, that was our families M.O.
But before I learned this, there was this one time where I really screwed things up. Before I had figured out that these strangers were not welcome. Before I knew there were folks we welcomed and folks we did not.
I remember it was a sunny day and I had been riding my bike around the farm. I saw the car at the end of the driveway and rode closer to investigate. Saw the small huddle of gray at the front door. Not recognizing them, but knowing that my mom and sister were inside the house, I instantly swung into little miss hostess mode. I strode quickly up the sidewalk and met them on the stoop.
Now, often on a warm day mom would prop open the heavy front door, leaving only the screen door to stop intruders. That was the case this fine day and it only confirmed for me that Mom was indeed inside. Had she not heard the doorbell? I would be helpful.
I greeted the strangers first asking them if they had rung the bell. They had. I said loudly and cheerfully, "Well, I know my mom is home. Do you want to come in and wait?"
A look passed between the man and 2 women. "Ah, no. Thank you. We will wait right here."
"Okay" I responded cheerfully. "I'll just go get my mom!" I breezed past them, slipping between the screen door into the house, calling out as I did. "Mom! Mo--ooo-om!"
The house was eerily quiet and I could see the preparations for cookie baking setting out on the kitchen cupboard. That spooked me a little and I made a bee-line to my mom's bedroom, hoping to find her.
Our house was laid out with the living room being the room you entered through the front door. The dining room and kitchen were adjacent to the living room and a massive stone fireplace created the wall that divided the living room from the hall that led to the bedrooms. From the hallway, behind the fireplace wall, you could hear everything that was going on in other parts of the house but not see or be seen. It was here in the hallway that I found both my mother and my sister, sitting on the floor, backs against the wall, listening and looking at me with equal parts fear and reproach as I came around the corner. It was that moment that I realized our front stoop guests were unwanted.
I remember my mom and sister 'shhh-ing' me and pulling me on to the floor beside them. A lot of furious whispering commenced as they reprimanded me for inviting those people in. I honestly don't remember how long we stayed huddled in our hallway waiting for those visitors to depart but I do remember that was when I learned about being non-confrontational and running away in fear instead of facing it with confidence.
I went through a long period of my life of running away from troubles and fears and it served me well. I still prefer to avoid confrontation but there are times I have learned, it is appropriate and necessary. I still don't like it but I have learned how to proceed with it and process it after.
As for the J.W.'s, there have been many other occasions over the years to chose to either hide, ignore the door or greet them with brotherly(sisterly) love in hopes of sharing the truth of Christ with them. I can't say which response is the best one; it depends on the situation. But I have learned that people with different beliefs need not be feared or avoided.