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How to deal with a proselytizer honestly

So we were late for soccer yesterday (what else is new) and were rushing out the door. My son gets down the stairs first, and crosses paths with a well-dressed guy who says “Hey there, how are you?” and holds out his hand. Jake was wary. He said, “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers” and backed away (I was so proud!). The gentleman (whom I had recognized by now as an employee at Jake’s school) said “Come on, you see me every day!” (Jake was used to seeing him in a uniform.)

They chatted for a minute about school and soccer, but we were already very late and we had to get going, so we all shook hands and I headed for the curb. But this man was now reaching into his portfolio, saying “Well, while I have you here…” and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, and I knew what was coming. Sure enough, out came The Watchtower.

If this man had been a stranger, someone we would never see again, I might have just taken the magazine and said goodbye. But this was someone I was sure to see again, many times. I flashed forward to the awkward conversations, me avoiding him in the halls, him asking me if I had a chance to read it, me making excuses. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. But not only do I have absolutely no interest in reading The Watchtower, I actually have a good deal of contempt for people who go out and actively try to convert people to their religion. I don’t stand on the corner yelling “There is no God, put your faith in science! The apocalypse is already here, just turn on Jerry Springer!”

So, I politely handed the magazine back and said “You know what? You should save it for someone it might have an impact on.” He dug a different magazine out of his bag and said “Oh, I should have given you the family one.” I smiled as nicely as I could, and said “No, it wouldn’t have made a difference.” And I said a final goodbye and told him to have a nice day and crossed the street to my car.

I really didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but it would have been worse to give him false hope that he had a chance with me. Better to nip it in the bud, and leave it at that.

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