Yesterday I went to Costco for a long-overdue eye exam.
Among other things, I wanted to return to wearing contacts. The optometrist—who has perfect, uncorrected vision—mentioned that he tries out every new kind of contact. He said, “There’s this one—the moment I put them in my eyes, I knew they were terrible. I don’t sell many of them.”
“Because you choose not to, or because people try them and don’t like them?” I asked.
“Both,” he said. “The sales rep told me, ‘Just sell them to people who’ve never had contacts. They won’t know the difference.”
“Ugh,” I said. “That’s why people don’t trust salespeople.”
Later he recommended a brand of monthly replacement contacts, and gave me a pair to try.
I slipped them in my eyes, and despite the five-year hiatus from contacts, they felt great. I could hardly tell that they were in my eyes.
This story is really about two salespeople—the rep and the optometrist.
The rep was willing to do anything to sell his brand of contacts. The result? Distrust.
The optometrist tested all the contacts, and only recommended ones that felt comfortable in his eyes. The result? Trust.
Distrust of salespeople is not new.
It’s pervasive. Most of us go out of our way to avoid looking like we’re selling something.
In UU circles, it often keeps us from sharing the good news about the religious community we call home. We’re afraid people will think we’re snake oil salesmen.
But there’s another way to “sell.” It’s the model my optometrist uses. Try something. See if you like it. If you do, share it with people you care about. If you don’t, warn people off.
It’s simple, and it’s trustworthy.
So if you’ve found a religious home that you enjoy, don’t be afraid to tell your friends about it.
Don’t push. Don’t presume that what works for you will work for them.
But don’t keep it a secret. Invite them to try it.
They might like it—or not. That’s up to them.
Your job is to make your religious community a healthy, life-enriching place to be—one that keeps the door open, and has clear signage inviting newcomers to come on in.