Wednesday, March 4, 2009
So here's a conversation that occurs nearly every time we go out in public as a family:
John Doe: Wow, they've got some really white hair!
Me: Yep. It makes them very easy to spot in a crowd.
PAUSE - they wait for me to explain more, but depending on my mood and energy level, I may or may not give in right away. If I don't,
John Doe: Where did they get that hair from?
At this point I give in and explain.
John Doe: Two brothers, huh? Have you ever heard of the Winter Brothers?
PAUSE. If they knew someone once with albinism, they insert that story here. If not, we sit in awkward silence for a few moments.
Me: Yep, we're going to teach our boys how to sing and get their act on the road soon.
I laugh at my own joke and then search for a quick exit.
A few weeks ago this situation played out with a microwave salesman in Sears. He started out saying he recognized us although we had no idea who he was. (Since we spend most of our time walking around our small city with two white-haired boys in tow, this is pretty common. I imagine it must be what celebrities feel like - slightly flattered and violated all at the same time.)
This salesman followed me around the store while talking and finally backed me into a corner so I had little hope of escape. After the Winter Brothers comment, he explained that he knew their music well because he frequently sang their songs as a professional karaoke singer.
Me: Is that like the person who sings a few songs and gets people participating at karaoke bars?
Salesman: No, it's just me singing. People pay me to come to their parties and sing karaoke for a few hours.
Me: So it's just you and a karaoke machine?
I smile and listen with interest as he recounts his latest gigs, but secretly I wonder how a "professional karaoke singer" is any different than a regular singer who doesn't bother to memorize the words? The whole concept of paying someone to sing karaoke boggles my mind - like eating deep fried Twinkies or buying a Snuggie (seriously, if you turn it around, it's called a robe)
The salesman eventually asked me what I do professionally, so I told him about mothering and ministry. Many a wise minister has told me to make up a fake profession because telling people you are going into/are in the ministry opens up a whole can of worms. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a good alias (any suggestions?) and so I told the truth.
Since I am not ordained yet, I'm usually spared from people asking for advice or unburdening their life story on me. But even as a student, people hear ministry and almost always assume you belong to the same religion as them. This man wasn't any different, so I listened to several minutes of his "being saved" story and his journey to finding a Pentecostal church in the area. While I loved hearing his story, I could tell he wanted me to divulge a similar tale - but Pentecostal is about the furthest thing there is from Unitarian Universalism. We have "saved" stories of our own, but not in any form he would recognize.
Instead, I made some general remarks about religion that made him happy, then was relieved when the lights started turning off and a man came over the intercom to say they were closing.
I chose to go into ministry because I want to interact with a wide variety of people and be there to help them during the most vulnerable moments of their lives. I suppose as frustrating and draining as it can be to have the constant attention albinism brings, I've also met some interesting people along the way.
In seminary, we have a habit of labeling even the most mundane things as "our ministry" to make it easier to swallow. Don't like scrubbing the toilet? Think of it as your "cleaning ministry." So I suppose I should work harder at setting aside the internal eye-rolling and make my experiences with albinism part of my daily ministry...an opportunity to gently teach others, set a good example for my sons, and practice patience.
If nothing else, it's a great networking tool to meet people. Need entertainment for your next Bar Mitzvah or birthday party? Have I got a karaoke singer for you....