Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sign of the Times

The church has foolishly asked me once again to sponsor some kid for Confirmation into the One True United Methodist Church, Apostolic and Universal. I have done this off and on for years. Typically, I'm an emergency backup confirmation sponsor. Kinda like the spiritual equivalent of a relief pitcher. If it's a kid that's new to the church and doesn't know anybody they call out to the bullpen and summon the Wesleyan version of Brad Lidge, although I'm having a better year than he is.

Now, I will be the first person to tell you that I have pretty much zero business in such a role. Actually, you can ask anybody and they would be the first person to tell you that I have no business in such a role. I don't exactly hold myself out as a Christian role model for today's troubled youth. But then again, I'm generally not too terribly impressed with those who do. And at times my doubts seem greater than my faith. But that's one of the things I like about the Methodist Church: it is a place where the perfervid and the questioner can peaceably co-exist. At least it is as of this writing. But so far so good. There is still a place at the table for the likes of me.

I haven't been asked to serve in this capacity in a couple of years. And so I was somewhat taken aback when I was told that I had to consent to a criminal background check before I would be allowed to be a mentor for confirmation. This is new.

But I don't why I should have been even mildly surprised. The recent story of John Mark Karr, who "confessed" to the killing of JonBenet Ramsey is a cautionary tale. Karr, who appears to be a pedophile of the first water in addition to being a psychopath, was obsessed by little girls, JonBenet in particular. So naturally, he became a teacher and a nanny.

The famous bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed backs. He said it was because, "That's where the money is." Likewise, it is not unheard of for whack jobs like Karr to try to get into teaching, coaching or Scouting. It's where the kids are.

There are crazy people out there. You just can't be too careful nowadays. Which is a hell of a note. And so I filled out the form. The main thing they are looking for in these checks-apart from a criminal record that is-is any indicia of instability. This is why they typically ask for an employment history and a list of all of all the places where you have lived since high school. I have been at the same job for over 20 years. I have lived in this county for longer than that. I've never been arrested. Now, I have recently purchased a bicycle. And some of my friends think it is completely insane, given my past history of accidents and injuries, for me to take up an activity that can get me killed. And doing stuff that is insane can cast doubt upon one's stability.

But the form didn't ask about that so I didn't disclose it.

My confirmation kid is a little boy named Hank. I don't know him at all. I don't know if his folks are married or divorced. To the best of my recollection, I have had only one confirmation kid whose parents were not divorced. Sign of the times and apropos of nothing. It just means that if the Mom has custody on Confirmation Sunday I will have to put his tie on him.

I will meet Hank for the first time at a supper at the church here in a couple of weeks. Typically, after dinner, the kids will introduce themselves and their sponsors to the class. I always write my name down on a piece of paper so that the kid won't have to be working on recall when he steps up to address the group. Because they always vapor lock when they have to get up to address the others. Hank is lucky. He's got a sponsor who knows how to game the system.

Actually, I don't know how lucky Hank is to have me in his boat throughout this process. God knows, I pretty much have zero business doing this. But I am willing to serve and I can pass a background check. My approach to Confirmation Class is much like the Hippocratic Oath: Do No Harm. Granted, it's a low bar. But a man has to know his limitations. Albert Schweitzer I am not.

I may not do Hank any good. But I will do him no harm.

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