‘We’re missionaries with the church of Jesus Christ for the Latter Day Saints,’ enthused the two twenty something American men standing smiling in front if me.
My limited mind presented me with Jehovah’s Witnesses. My own experience of this group of people was limited to inviting some poor individual into my house for a lengthy debate…the fact that a local group had built a Kingdom Hall in about 30 seconds and that some mother or other of this religious persuasion had been taken to court to force her to allow her child to have a blood transfusion.
But that wasn’t these guys…no.
These were the guys who had loads of wives as factually depicted in the American TV series, ‘Big Love’…
I had a passing thought about the crusades…
Prejudice is a wonderfully automatic response, isn’t it?
My mind eagerly pumped out a whole bunch of shite in an attempt for me to understand these two young men.
Nice try, but none the wiser.
Being none the wiser I just fired questions at them…possibly
in this order…
‘So, you’re Christians?’
‘How are you different from other Christian types?’
Ok – I won’t pretend to remember what they said verbatim, but I’m pretty sure it included…
They don’t take anything away from the original gospels – they believe there are still prophets today and so their scriptures are still being written.
‘What does your faith give you?’
Again, not word for word…
Love…community…morals…one of them, who was from California, talked about the opulence and corpulence that abounded there…he felt his parents provided him with a moral compass and that, in turn, he could provide an example for the people around him.
The 10 commandments? Plus…
Love God; fidelity in marriage; renunciation of worldly goods; renunciation of violence; forgiveness of sins; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Ok, I allowed myself a fleeting thought of America, a Christian Country bombing the Hell out of the rest of the world in the name if peace…
But that wasn’t the two guys standing in front of me.
They were excited to hear my story of a secular pilgrimage (I know, oxymoron notwithstanding), the kindness, generosity and all round lovely squashiness I’d experienced on my way round. They were clearly thrilled to hear about the evolution of walk a mile.
They were excited to tell me they felt part of something big – I pretty much said, ‘Me too…’
I liked these guys. I didn’t share their religious faith, but I think we shared a faith in our fellow humans.
We exchanged non-business cards and I went off feeling happier at meeting them.
Further along the road, I found myself talking to a couple of teenage girls.
They were grandly telling me about a young guy who lived in an estate near them who,’…was properly mental…the police have been round and everything…’
I began to talk about the cyclical nature of mental health problems; how they often reflect what’s happened to someone; that it happens to one in 4 of us…
What is the best age to start to talk about this?
They went off chatting with my cards, saying they’d take a look at the group…
Suddenly Gina appeared…’Are you Chris?’ she asked
I answered, ‘Guilty as charged,’ or some such nonsense
‘I’m so glad I found you,’ she smiled.
She’d seen me in the local paper and had spotted me on the side of the road.
She worked with folk effected by domestic abuse…we shared professional thoughts and feelings on the subject, concluding it was challenging work.
She told me she was named after Gina Lollobrigida – her dad had been a fan.
When challenged he told her she was lucky that she hadn’t been called Doris Day.
‘Here’s £20,’ she said, ‘£10 for you on your walk and £10 for your charity…’
Her enthusiasm was infectious – I found myself grinning like er, a loon as I accepted…
And with that, she was gone. More hit and run kindness and generosity…
Still smiling, I walked a little further down the road and there were the Mormon boys again…
‘How did you…? I think I’ve just been speaking to your twin brothers…’ Incoherently, I pointed back up the road…
‘We can teleport…’ the Californian guy came back as quick as a flash.
We said nothing else. We just passed each other grinning.
Teleporting Mormons! How cool is that?
Walk a mile