We must have crossed into a funk zone. That’s the only way I can explain our Owasso point on the map.
Somewhere between our visit with the Roundtable Breakfast Club in Sperry and a middle class neighborhood in Owasso, Rachel and I must have entered an unmarked Oklahoma worm hole. It certainly felt “alien.” We literally knocked on ten doors with not one “yes” for our conversation.
Prior to turning south into this particular area with newer homes and nicely paved streets, we had just said to each other, “We really need to sit down with a few middle class folks. Someone we find at home, not necessarily just outside hanging around wherever we happen to be.”
As we agreed on this plan, I felt it was exactly the right thing to do. Go to a middle-class neighborhood in the middle of American. After all, I’m a middle class individual and live in somewhat of a middle-class neighborhood. My people, right?
“Piece of cake,” I said to myself as I walked up to the first door of ten.
There is always something to be gained from what might normally be construed as a negative experience, so here are my reflections about what I learned during the 45 minute trip through those winding neighborhood streets:
- Many more people have dogs that stay in their houses during the day than I had originally thought;
- Just because you might knock on someone’s door a few days after Christmas doesn’t necessarily mean that a magical Christmas Spirit will overtake that person, enchanting them to speak with strangers;
- And, I realized what it must feel to have been a door-to-door salesman in the 1950s and 60s – large quantities of nondescript faces and body language that collectively sent emphatic “nos” when encountered.
So, our time wasn’t completely wasted. But we did start wondering if perhaps we should move into more “comfortable territory” in order to find an Oklahoman in Owasso who would chat.
For us, “comfortable territory” is somewhere in the middle of town where we spy lots of people going about their daily business. Townspeople “out and about” seems to naturally have less barriers to engagement.
But then we tried the museum; it was closed on Mondays.
We tried the nail parlor. We even agreed to get a manicure while we explained our project. “Yes! No problem,” was our initial answer.
But when we booked our manicure and started to bring in our equipment, the manger on duty changed her mind.
We cruised main street, a grocery store parking lot, and three times circled a tea house we thought might open if we gave it enough time.
I was THIS close to asking Rachel if we could just go home when we spied the library. Giving me a break, Rachel ran in and spoke with the librarian. I love librarians. They seem to understand our project. She said that “if we didn’t harass people (basically)” we could go ahead and ask some of their patrons to participate.
Enter Elder Madsen and Elder Reynolds, two LDS missionaries who were using the library internet service because it was “Email Monday.” They were completely open to our project, and within five minutes we had our equipment set up outside the library and were learning all about Email Mondays, LDS mission work in general, and Total Happiness. Note: The video below will fill you in on these details, and more.
I wanted to hug them. Instead, we had our conversation and headed home. However, if I saw them again, I would probably still feel compelled to hug them. Probably “over-hug,” like in the “bear” category.
Thank the Lord for libraries, for Email Mondays, and for these two very young Elders being open to a conversation. From listening to their stories, their work is clearly meaningful to them.
Notes about our project: Every Point on the map is a ten-year journey to document a meaningful conversation with at least one person in every one of Oklahoma’s 594 towns and cities. This post wraps the content collected exclusively by Rachel Apple (our photographer) and myself (our author). From this point forward, the video footage you see will have been shot and edited exclusively by April Kirby. See our “About Page” for more information.
Disclaimer – I know some very dear people who live in Owasso. I could have called them, knocked on their door, and had a full and rich conversation for our project. But that’s not our mission…our mission is to connect, as best as we can, with random people in every town. I do hope you understand that this article in no way shapes my thoughts about “Owasso.” It may, however, be a beginning to a hypothesis I have about income level and openness to strangers. I’ll write more on that if this experience repeats itself across the years of our work. ~ Kelly Roberts, Editor