“I’m sorry for the last-minute request. Would you be able to come to ours late this afternoon? I’ll be dropping a few leaflets in the neighbourhood and need a walking partner.”
That was a voice message left on phone by my other mum, one Saturday morning. She hails from Nigeria. Called back and assured her that I’d be there. Although I’d made plans to change my settings to hibernation mode later that day, the adventure seeker in me agreed to embark on this rather fascinating journey. Luckily, the weather was brilliant; crisp and sunny, casting a beautiful autumnal spell over the city. Even donned my summer shades and put on my battered and well-loved walking boots. Ready for action!
Leaflet dropping in action!
Growing up in Africa, door knocking was normally associated with begging or hawking, actions that most people would frown upon. By contrast, the U.K. is a haven for leaflet drops through the letter box, and everyone is at it! From train companies, charities, local supermarkets, takeaways, utility companies to the occasional window-cleaner peddling their services.
Mind you, these companies do their research beforehand, know their potential target market and reach out with a product or service that they believe customers will love. I’ve responded to some adverts by making a purchase. Clinique Bonus Time comes to mind. I don’t have to search for it, they post timely leaflets with information about their sought-after promotions. You buy at least two items and get up to 6 samples of their products, accompanied by a lovely toiletry bag. You snooze, you miss it! That’s when some of us stock up, for their products don’t come cheap. The beauty of leaflet advertising! It grabs your attention and raises awareness, evokes interest which makes you desire to act. It’s commonly known as the AIDA model.
Mum on a Mission
However, mum was not on a drop- to-sell run. Her job was to ask if people in her community and neighbourhood needed prayers. A Christian missionary group, to which she subscribes, had set aside the last weekend of September to specifically pray for communities across the country. She’d collected some requests on the previous day, and needed to perform a last-minute blitz before Sunday. On paper, the mission sounded simple. Knock on a door, wait for a response, introduce ourselves, ask if they had any prayer requests to be written on a piece of paper. Mum would detach a slip with her contact details and collect the requests. Later on, a group of fellow worshippers would gather and pray over each and every prayer request. How amazing! Faith in action.
All I had to do was follow mum’s lead. Off we went; there were a few houses with blinds and curtains drawn, so we made sure to go past. Another turn to the right, lo and behold…two shirtless English men, possibly in their late twenties, adorned in visible and detailed tattoos. As they saw us walk past through their low-lying front windows, they decided to give us a cheerful wave, accompanied with wide grins. With an African mum ready and willing to mother anyone, I instantly knew they were prime targets. She immediately took a few steps towards the porch and knocked on their door. The door was opened almost immediately.
I could tell that the men too found the exchange rather fascinating. We noticed that they were drinking but upon the door going ajar, eagle-eyed mum observed numerous coins strewn on their carpeted floor. She didn’t hesitate to ask what it was all about. The man smiled and explained that they were playing a game. “Oh!” mum said, her response clearly indicating that she didn’t understand why anyone would play such a game. She then asked if they had anything that needed praying for, anything. Although friendly, I was expecting him to dismiss us but no, he did the complete opposite. He took the piece of paper and pen and wrote away. Mum continued chatting with him throughout, and he was very responsive. We learnt that he was an electrical engineer by profession, although I can’t remember what he said about his friend. Nevertheless, we left the scene feeling rather encouraged. His friend waved goodbye to both of us. I believe it was not a “good riddance” bye but a “nice to see you” kind of bye. Awesome.
We took a few steps forward, knocked on another door and a man from the Caribbean emerged, accompanied with his little daughter. He was not in the mood for chit-chatting but write something he did. We thanked him and left, headed towards where there were other signs of life. Only a short distance away and another door was flung open, this time by a beautiful lady with a friendly face, wearing a head scarf. We’d later learn that they had Pakistani roots but they were born and bred in the U.K. As mum did all the talking, I continued to observe the happenings but made sure to compliment her talks with a smile wherever we went. Yes, I had my Autumn lippy on point, MAC Diva to be precise. Just because you believe in Christ doesn’t mean that you don’t turn up in style! Well, at least that’s my motto. Mum looked polished as usual, such a huge inspiration.
A Memorable Encounter
Never would have guessed what happened next. The woman’s husband also appeared at the door, together with their two children. After a few cordial exchanges, we were invited into their house. What was supposed to be a minute or two discussion turned into a story- sharing session. The phone rang, dad answered, it was work -related. Mum disappeared into the kitchen, the aroma coming from the other room was tantalising. That’s when we chatted to their son with high ambitions to study Quantum Mathematics when he grows up. Mum yelled, “Get in!” or something like that. I’ve heard that response numerous times before. It happens when she’s in agreement with someone, when her heart has been touched to a high degree or when someone has delivered something amazing and she’s encouraging them. Indeed, it was a lovely moment. How many times do you come across an eleven-year-old saying that they want to study Quantum Mathematics? What a bright and well-mannered boy, with a glowing smile.
Such a beautiful home too, made even more homely by the people who reside in it. We declined a tea offer for we still had tonnes of forms to distribute, and time was not on our side. I listened as mum and the couple touched on a few issues regarding their community. Although they shared a few concerns, the couple talked about their amazing neighbours, all who come from different countries across the globe. But that wasn’t all. We later learnt about what the man of the house did for a living. He's a prominent salesman for computer software, managing a huge portfolio under his belt. That night, I learnt a lot about the art of selling from two seemingly ordinary people, mum and the man.
Not only did we leave the place with a prayer request, mum made sure to pray with them as a family. Business cards and contact details were exchanged. The power of holding conversations and interacting with real people. What a beautiful encounter!
Proceeded to knock on a few more doors and another warm and friendly English lady opened her door. She was welcoming and, again, pleasant to talk to. She explained that she’d moved into the neighbourhood not so long ago and said if it weren’t for the fact that she was going mushroom hunting with her brood, she would have sampled mum’s church on Sunday. They both agreed that there’s always a next time, before swapping numbers. Of course, we had a few no shows, some knocks were ignored and there were a few who said, “No thank you, we’re good!”
"A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Once upon a time…
As I write this, I still don’t know how I would have reacted had someone knocked on my door, asking if I needed a prayer. I once answered a similar call from an elderly lady almost 10 years ago. She was inviting local residents to give their church a try. Although I didn’t attend any of their Sunday services, I ended up joining their local playgroup/toddler sessions which took place once a week. My then babies thrived in that environment.
When I first joined, I didn’t know much about raising young ones, let alone in a new environment, having migrated from Africa. I learnt a lot from a group of British mums, who took us under their wings and made us feel at home.
It opened my eyes about where to buy stuff, current trends and traditional toys and stories, tips on raising young children, the school system, birthday parties and so much more. We visited many places, thanks to their recommendations. My kids learnt a lot of Bible stories and rhymes, and by the time we said goodbye, years later, there were no dry eyes left. I can’t imagine how our lives would have panned out had I not opened my door.
Few Takeaway Lessons
That Saturday experience made me confirm that despite all the issues we may face as individuals, especially in the developed world, our needs are the same. Friendship, a smiling face, human interaction and warm acceptance by others. When you are on the receiving end of such humane acts, your belief in human nature can only be further strengthened. Perhaps, it starts with the simple act of giving. Mum and I never took the closed doors personally, we understood that some people are less engaging than others, perhaps for good reasons. I probably wouldn’t have opened my door this time around. Indeed, I’ve ignored unsolicited door callers and coached the kids to never open doors to strangers. Sometimes it’s necessary.
However, the few people who opened their doors for us will never know how much they touched my soul. I left their doorsteps with a clear conviction that despite the reports which are often highlighted by some, the world is filled with amazing people. The following day, mum told me that of all the people who’d written prayer requests, the English ‘boys to men’ who were drinking and had initially waved at us from a distance, had written the most elaborate and detailed prayer request. She wouldn’t share the details for privacy but I hope that whoever reads this will find it in their heart to say a little prayer for them. God knows who they are and what they truly need. May HE bless each and every soul who made us feel welcome, not forgetting those who wouldn’t engage with us. Last but not least, may we be encouraged by mum and her team’s example to tackle issues at community level by reaching out. I’ve seen her open her doors to many. In fact, her front door is usually revolving, as the broken and those seeking strength walk in and know that they will be welcome.
There is an African proverb which states that “we are as strong as the weakest link.” It’s no secret that we’re becoming more disconnected at an alarming rate, especially in the developed world. Those small cracks and divisions that we’ve allowed to grow can only get bigger and further isolate us, unless we take the first steps. It starts with a smile, a wave, or maybe hello. It’s easier for me to say this because I live in a city where people generally talk to each other on the tram or bus and in supermarkets.
The simple act of humbling yourself, knocking on someone’s door with something to offer, has opened doors for many, including major multi-billion companies. If they can do it, why can’t we? Ultimately, respect for privacy is golden, and one must never feel compelled to open their door if they’re not up to it. As previously mentioned, sometimes security concerns must come to the fore. I love face-to-face interactions but I sometimes shut the door so I can either work or recharge batteries. Remember, when someone opens their door, it’s nothing but a privilege. There are people who take advantage of this fact. Abuse it and the door will be slammed in your face, never to be opened again. Some people have built walls of resistance, either through fear or bad experiences. That’s understandable. However, our door-knocking experience taught me that simple acts of kindness, or offering something of value will lead to welcoming individuals. They might be few in number but they are there, waiting to be discovered.
That’s how we build stronger villages or communities!
Although we hail from different cultures and backgrounds, we shape each other's journeys through learning and interaction.