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There you are, standing on the doorstep. You served an early dinner to your family, got the kids started on homework and laundry, picked up your Home Teaching or Visiting Teaching partner, and now you’re ringing the doorbell of a less active member.
The door opens. You introduce yourself. But instead of a happy smile from someone glad you see you, the person growls, “When are you people going to leave me alone? I’m trying to have a nice evening with my family, and you interrupt it.”
You apologize and try to explain that you were just coming by to see if you could help in any way, let them know you’re there for them, but they’re not listening. “I don’t attend anymore and I’d like you to tell everybody to bug off!” Slam!
And you sigh. First of all, you know exactly what it’s like to want an evening with your family. In fact, you sacrificed that very thing to “search and rescue” tonight. Not only that, but if you’d had their phone number you would have called ahead, instead of popping in. You also have no way to make it known to every member, and everyone who will ever move in and get assigned to this person, that this individual wants no contact. You can put it on the list right now, but in a few months new rosters may get printed, new people won’t know, and this will happen all over again. Our meetings do not begin with a recitation and memorization of every person who wishes we’d drop off the face of the earth.
It’s frustrating on both ends. The person who wishes no further contact must not realize they can remove themselves from our records by writing a letter to the bishop. So we keep showing up, and they feel pestered. And we, on the other hand, are just trying to reach out and be kind. We are not the person who offended them fourteen years ago. We are not trying to get something from them, and we don’t earn money by ringing doorbells.
I’ve had more antagonistic greetings than I can count (the example above is a verbatim conversation), and here’s how I deal with it:
First, and always, don’t engage. Don’t argue back, counter attack, or correct their manners. If you really came here sincerely wanting to help, keep that stance and politely go on your way.
Second, when someone is hostile and rude, remember that it says far more about them, than it does about you. You do not need to own someone else’s label. Don’t go away feeling anything but sureness that you were on the Lord’s errand.
Third, try to see the situation from their perspective. They may have deep wounds unknown to you, which influence their reaction to any LDS person. It may not be rational, but it’s understandable. You aren’t the target, but you represent it, and they’ve allowed their anger to cloud their courtesy and better judgment.
Fourth, kudos to you for trying. The scriptures are filled with servants of the Lord who were persecuted for trying to gather his sheep. You’re in pretty good company, and God will bless you for your efforts.
Fifth, don’t give up. If they don’t remove their name from the records, you can still drop them a note, even using this as a way to let them get to know you, find common ground, and build a friendship. Social media can also help if you learn of a hospitalization, let’s say, and want to drop off a basket of rolls, or a pot of soup. We all know people who were “No Contacts” years ago, but warmed to the genuine love and gentle persistence of caring members, and today bear testimonies of gratitude that people didn’t give up on them.
Sixth, pray for them and pray for inspiration about how best to serve them. You may feel prompted to back off for a while. Or you may feel the need to return at a better time, apologize, and strike up a conversation about their beautiful lawn, the car they’re restoring, or some other way to sincerely make friends with them.
Seventh, have a sense of humor. “Well, that went well,” or “This is why we get the big bucks” can keep the situation light, and remind us that rejection is bound to be part of the process.
This is still the Lord’s program. We are a Church that watches over every individual, and we willingly sacrifice our time to do it. We are trying to be the Lord’s hands and feet, and treat his children as he would. You are part of a great army of servants just trying to be that light in the storm for someone who could be struggling. Yes, there will be door slams and heated accusations. But if you keep love in your heart, you won’t let someone else’s attitude determine yours, and you’ll go home feeling good about your efforts. And, regardless of their reaction, that is a successful visit.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.