I painted our front door recently. Exciting story, I know. Soon after I’d finished giving it the new coat of paint that it sorely needed, however, a seagull crapped on it. It was most unwelcome. This weekend, my doorstep was the scene of another brief but unwanted episode – only this latest one wasn’t amusing.
Two women and a young boy knocked on the door and I answered. The two women stepped back, shoved the little boy forward and nodded at him. “My name’s ***** and I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” he stammered with all the self-assurance that you would expect an alcoholic announcing themselves on a TV drama to demonstrate.
The poor little thing could only have been four years old at the most. I looked at the two women and said: “Sorry, I’m going to have to stop you there – this isn’t for me.” They gave me a smile as if nothing was even slightly amiss about the whole situation, nodded and made as if to go.
This incensed me; I had to say something. “For the record, I don’t agree with using children to spread your messages,” I added. The smiles turned to frowns and, as I tried to shut the door, one of them tried to stop me from doing so.
Ignoring the other things I would ordinarily rant about here – the flagrant invasion of privacy, the arrogant assumption that I would suddenly find religious faith at the entrance to my house thanks to three strangers and the fact they tried to step uninvited into my home to stop me closing my own front door, in case you were wondering – I was absolutely appalled that they were making a child do the talking.
Presumably, one of the women was the boy’s mother. What an incredible abuse of his trust it was to make him do this. He had no idea of the strength of feeling people have about such things and had clearly been persuaded to do it.
When I declined the leaflet he tried to give me, he had a fearful look in his eyes. Whether or not any pressure had been put on him to shift x number of leaflets, he was worried that he was letting his Mum down. This was not his choice.
Indoctrination of this kind is beyond unfair. It’s robbing children of their childhoods and denying them any freedom of choice. They should be running around playing on a Saturday. Not being made to talk to strangers about a concept they don’t really understand.
It’s not about religion or even the attitudes and approaches of people who associate themselves with it. I respect other people’s beliefs and their rights to decide for themselves. Putting words into children’s mouths and placing them in the potential firing line of all kinds of people – and strangers at that; what kind of message does that send out? – who don’t want them on their doorstep is unacceptable.
I know this may sound strong, but I don’t really see much of a difference between parents making their children promote a religion and cult leaders preying on emotionally vulnerable adults. It’s manipulative and wrong.
I think that kids should have the freedom to decide things like this for themselves. I won’t even push Dylan and Xander into supporting the team I love.
Obviously, I’d be delighted if they do one day follow Spurs like me so I can take them to games, share in celebrations and dry their tears when we inevitably lose on penalties in semi-finals or see our latest hero naff off to Real Madrid. But who they support – if they even like football in the first place – is their choice.
That’s how it should be with other big life choices too.