Harrison and Mitchell
"You guys make a good team! And I love your honesty. Thank you for that."
How did they react?
They laughed and said, "Thanks!"
How did I feel?
When I was little my mother used to say "Don't ever open when the sects knock at our door. They are dangerous." One day I was home alone when a Jehova's witness rang the bell. The sound caught me on my way out to meet a friend. Instead of leaving the house I hid behind the door for thirty minutes. That's how long the guy waited in front of our apartment. I didn't move. Not an inch. I was scared that he might hear someone was there and stay for the entire ten hours my mother was going to be gone for. Today I assume that the guy probably did hear something and was worried if the person behind the door - me - was okay. Back then I was unable to think that far. Busy battling with the blurry ball of fear inside of me I waited it out. All I heard was my mom's voice: They are dangerous. He could have been a serial killer running a knife into our door, screaming at me from outside. I would have felt the same way; danger was danger. He was the wolf, I was one of the three little pigs.
Today I don't hide behind the door anymore. When they ring I open and say, no, thanks. But a small piece of the past still clings to my mind: I always think, "Jesus. You guys are so lost." I feel pity. A few hours back I got a chance to question that. Finally! In the city of Bonn Harrison and Mitchell approached me. They both wore a Mormon tag. They waved at me. Before they even said anything I was already three sentences into my explanation on how I am into Buddhism and won't find my way to the LDS Church. Their answer: "That's cool." That's cool? Alright then, I thought, waiting for their but. It did not come; Instead we entered conversation. They asked me about how I got hooked on Buddhism. I told them. They walked with me to my destination. I was okay with that. In fact I realized a few minutes into our chat that this was an amazing opportunity to gain a new perspective. So I started asking questions. How they first encountered the LDS Church (They both grew up in the community, lost track of religion and later on had moments in college that defined their lives and lead them back to the Church, looking for a purpose in life. I am not sure how comfortable they would be with me sharing those moments so I am going to leave them out). How many times they had told that story (twice or three times). How they ended up in Germany (They chose to go on mission and paid for it themselves). So far, so good. I nodded to their statements and tried to ignore the little skeptic in the back of my head. He was throwing his hands up in despair and asking me, "How do you know they are not just giving you some crap they have been taught to say?" I didn't. All I knew was I wanted to meet Harrison and Mitchell, the people behind those black name tags. Two boys who spent day by day walking through town, talking to people. Suddenly I realized: The three of us had more in common then I had thought at first. I, too, spend my days walking up to people. In the German culture that can be a challenge. The next question slipped out of my mouth, "What does it feel like approaching people every day?". Harrison said, "We get rejected a lot. But I totally understand! See, if I put myself in those people's shoes, on my way to work there is this guy who wants to talk me out of nowhere I would be weirded out, too..." "Yeah", I answered, "I hear you. But you didn't answer my question. You just told me about how you understand people. Not about how you feel." Harrison grinned, then the corners of his mouth went down. "You're right. How do I feel? Honestly: It hurts. It just hurts. I don't feel like they are rejecting the church, I feel like they are rejecting me. And that hurts." There was a moment of silence. Then I said, "Thank you for being honest, I really appreciate that. I was totally sure you were going to give me some jive about how God turns all this into a lot of fun and you love it but you didn't tell me that. I think your being real is awesome." "Sure", Harrison said, "And you know what? On the plus side, every now and then, we get to have an awesome conversation like this one." We all grinned. I asked them about their lives back home. They told me they had both been in college in Colorado, Harrison was passionate about wrestling and Mitchell had studied engineering. They had taken a break to come here but were going to go back to college once their mission was over. I heard stories about wrestling coaches, scholarships, transferring to other schools. About drinking, driving and cops. And about wondering what to live for and returning to church. To me they sounded like to normal kids experiencing the years after high school. Their Church was present in every other sentence, yes, but I didn't mind. I saw two guys trying to figure life out. Losing their way and looking for stable paths to walk on. Both of them mentioned an emptiness inside that had ultimately inspired them to go to church again. I wondered: Don't we all try to fill that emptiness? They asked me what it is that drives me. I gave them my answer, "I don't know. I like to not be sure and let things flow. To learn from others and myself and let myself come to different conclusions every day. But there is one thing I have been coming back to again and again: Love. Like, unconditional and maybe even universal love." I spoke carefully at first because I was not sure about how they would react. Looking into their eyes I found openness. They were interested. I continued, "It is the strongest drive I have ever felt. If I let it overwhelm me I lose control and at the same time I feel more powerful then ever. It allows me to give without expecting something return. Not just because I appreciate the thought of that on an intellectual or moralistic level, but because it then feels like the most natural thing to do. I like to assume this love is my drive. I lose it every once in a while, for there is fears and what not covering it and they grab hold of me every now and then. But when I find it again I am absolutely certain: This what I am here for. This is who I am when I am my best self. I am love." We talked about making the world a better place. Again they listened to my ideas. They did not say much except for a "This is awesome" here and there. Between two sentences we reached my destination. They had been walking with me for half an hour, our conversation flowing. We had not been two Mormons actively trying to persuade a stranger. Neither were we one Yoga girl attempting at challenging two guys. We were three people listening to each other. Taking in stranger's perspectives and appreciating the reality we saw in them, each of us for ourselves. We let each other be. When I gave them a hug it was heartfelt. I don't see myself converting to the LDS Church for I am comfortable living in the midst of my childhood-Christianity-Buddhism-free-thinker-Yoga-mysticism-new-age-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. But I am not afraid of Mormons anymore, neither do I pity them. On top of that I am very grateful to have met two honest boys who had the guts to move to a foreign country for two years, challenging themselves to walk up to strangers every day. Thank you, Mitchell and Harrison.
During our walk and talk I failed to mention one thing: Look at those names! Mitchell and Harrison. Two of the greatest musicians this planet has ever seen. Could there be a better team? Maybe you guys should record a song together.
In this post I wrote about Mormons. I started the piece with my experience with a Jehova's witness. Obviously those two are different as are other churches and religious communities. I am not bracketing them all together. Not today at least; When I was younger they were "the sects". I didn't know differentiate between them. Today I still lack a lot of knowledge about churches but I am aware they are not all the same. And I was not trying to say that in this piece.