I'm normally quite polite but there are days when I just don't have the time nor the patience to help them with their survey.
So the other day when I was interrupted by the offer of another wonderful opportunity I tried very politely to tell the marketeer that I was busy and didn't have time to help him. But he persisted, demanding my attention for only a minute. So I timed him. He was on a loser although he didn't realise it at the time.
He began by asking me to confirm my identity which I didn't do. It wasn't my name he used because the 'phone number has been reallocated. So by the time we got through all those bits his minute ran out and I informed him that his time was up and that I had no more time for any more questions.
"I haven't asked you any questions," he complained. "But you have," I responded. "You've asked me who I am, what my postcode is and whether I'm over 18. It's not my fault you didn't estimate how long it would take to do this and answer the survey. Good bye." And with that I hung up the 'phone, half expecting it to ring again and to get told off by his supervisor. I've had that before.
The point is that each time I get one of these calls and each time I get frustrated and angry about being interrupted in mid conversation or mid thought, I remember one call I had a number of years ago. I can't remember the context of the call but I remember somehow we got on to what I did for a job. "I'm the minister of a church," I said, and thought nothing more of it. A few moments after hanging up the 'phone rang again. The voice on the other end was quiet but recognisable as the telemarketer who had just called.
"Sorry to bother you, "she said, "but could you pray for me?" I'll have to speak quietly otherwise my boss might hear what I'm saying and I might lose my job, but life is hard at the moment and I could do with someone to pray for me."
So I listened to her brief story and then we prayed together. I actually found myself engaged in ministry on the telephone with this person who's job it had been to interrupt my day. She, apparently, was sitting in her little cubicle in South Africa and I was in my study in Bedford.
I don't know what happened. I never got a call from her to tell me any news, but I'm not surprised. I doubt that she could have found my number again and I doubt that she would have risked her job twice. But maybe she's one telemarketer that I will see in heaven and hear the rest of the story.
I guess you'd have to say that God took an ordinary baptist minister working away on something of great theological importance (well I can dream can't I) and connected him to someone he cared about in another country using the technology available and marketing strategies of the 21st century. Why, I don't know. But I dare to dream that God did something amazing in that person's life because I took the time to share my life when perhaps no one else would have done so.
So I'll continue to try and be polite and friendly when the telephone rings and not set a timer going every time.