Saturday, November 18, 2006

Workings of the Spirit...or was that spirits?

Late this morning I heard the bumping noises out front that mean somebody, probably Joey, is playing soccer in my front yard. Around noon the bumping stopped and I heard a lot of talking. Eventually I looked out and found five kids, four boys and a girl, sitting on my steps. There were two young blonde coeds at the bottom of the steps, and two well-scrubbed young guys in coats and ties standing on the sidewalk outside my front gate.

Great. The missionaries, I thought. Probably Indiana church.

The First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana sends buses into poor neighborhoods on Sundays and takes kids off to their massive campground for kid stuff and indoctrination. I knew about them from the North Side, where a Mennonite friend of mine who runs a youth center warned me about them. The mission was very heavy-handed and often the food and games promised didn't live up to expectations, she told me.

So I came outside. The two guys cleared off immediately, but the girls, especially the curly blonde with way too much eyeshadow, were more persistent.

"You're coming tomorrow, right, Eric?" Eric, who is new to me, stayed quiet. "But you came before," Curly pressed. "If you don't come, I'm gonna cry."

To a littler one she said, "You like it, right?" giving him what she thought was a friendly poke in the shoulder. The kids were very polite. Too polite. Frozen, like deer in the headlights.

I just stood and listened for a bit, taking in the situation. The only kid on the steps I knew was Joey. A couple of these kids apparently were veterans. While Curly was definitely giving an emotionally manipulative hard sell, I didn't really want to just go in guns blazing.

Eventually I asked Curly, "What church are you with?"

"First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana," Curly said proudly.

She went on in the same vein a bit longer, promising candy on the bus ride to Hammond: "not just a Tootsie Roll, but a whole candy bar or a bag of chips or a pop, something like that."

Then she said something to Joey. That was the last straw.

"Excuse me," I said. "I'm Catholic, and he's Catholic. We already have a church we belong to. I appreciate what you're trying to do with young people, but I'd prefer you not proselytize in my yard."

"I'm sorry," Candy said. She and her sidekick split immediately.

All the kids looked at me with relief. Jose put his hands in the namaste position, like a prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance.

"You're like our teacher," one of the other kids, maybe Eric, said admiringly.

"If they come back and bother you again, ring the bell and I'll come out and tell them to leave," I said, and went back inside to get the garbage and throw it out.

After a few trips in-and-out and a long stretch of indoor cleaning, I came back outside. The kids were still on the step, and one of the regular stray cats who hang out here was on the front walk below them.

"That cat's going to die in four years," Joey said.

"How do you know?"

"We're talking to the spirits," he said. The girl in the group had a notebook with various numbers written on the open pad.

"Oh, like with a Ouija board?" I asked. I don't know if they knew what that was. "Well, I don't believe in those things, but have fun."

Maybe we should have stuck with the missionaries!

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