Last spring I started volunteering at one of our local museums. There are a number of volunteer opportunities available but the one I enjoy most, at least thus far, is staffing the Information Desk. There is a nice variety of questions and it affords me the opportunity to interact with most of the guests. Working conditions are pleasant and most of the museum staff and volunteers are friendly.
Another group of volunteers usually on hand are the Gallery Assistants. We call them ‘Rovers’ because their assignment is to circulate throughout the galleries. They give directions, answer questions, highlight changes or updates in the displays and keep an eye open for potential problems. It’s like working at the Info Desk but with more walking and fewer brochures. Rovers are discouraged from congregating at the Info Desk and chatting with the Desk Staff (ie. me) or other rovers. Human nature being what it is, however, it happens. This is especially true right after the museum opens in the morning when guests are few.
Recently, during one such chat, I met a volunteer I had not encountered before. This is not unusual. There are more than 500 volunteers so I see unfamiliar faces all the time. Our conversation followed the usual volunteer chat outline; name? (Sally), how long have you been a volunteer? (2 years), what assignments are you trained for?, etc. When all else fails there is the weather (hot!) and the traffic (congested!). As this conversation progressed I mentioned I also volunteered as an usher at Symphony Hall. Sally said she had always wanted to do that so I explained how it worked and offered to give her the contact information for the volunteer coordinator. She eagerly said; “Yes, please.” That’s when this got a little strange.
While I looked through my phone for the information I’d offered her, Sally raised both of her arms above her head, palms out, and said; “My Lord Jesus Christ loves me. Jesus Christ is my protector. The Lord is my savior.” Then she looked at me, giggled, and inquired; “What comes next?”
Having been raised a Southern Baptist, I am not rattled by the occasional Pentecostal ejaculation but they don’t usually arise in idle chatter with complete strangers in secular settings. I looked up from my phone, smiled and said; “I beg your pardon?”
“What comes next? I don’t know the next line.” Sally replied.
“I’m not familiar with the prayer”; I replied. “It sounds a little like the beginning of Psalm 23 but that is ‘The Lord is my shepherd… not savior”.
“I don’t know that one” Sally said.
Just my luck, 9:15 on a Wednesday morning and the Spirit decides to descend upon one of the faithful and picks one who doesn’t even know the 23rd Psalm? Am I on one of those hidden camera shows? If this goes viral on YouTube I’ll be annoyed.
About that time some guests arrived so I gave her the email address I’d written down and turned my attention to the visitors. After what seemed like an uncomfortably long silence, Sally wandered off to resume her roving.
In hindsight, I wish I’d come up with a better response than, “I beg your pardon?” Perhaps if I’d said, ‘Amen’ it might have brought the experience to a more rapid conclusion. Not being my first visit to the evangelical rodeo, I knew not to say, ‘Hallelujah’. In fundamentalist-speak that is the equivalent of the chorus in Grease singing; “Tell Me More, Tell Me More”. It just queues up the next verse.
Harper’s Other Dad advised, in situations like this the appropriate response to; “What comes next?” is ‘Lithium or some other mood stabilizer’. I did not want to go there, however. I don’t recall whether it was Carrie’s mom or Sybil’s mom that said; “Beware of practitioners of the mind”. I take no chances. I am pretty sure both are friends of Sally.
Note to self: Email the volunteer coordinator to let her know I gave her contact info to a potential volunteer…. one with whom I’d rather not be assigned.