Last weekend, I spent a considerable amount of time mulling over what to put in the subject line for a neighborhood email. What was called for, I think, was just the right amount of urgency tempered with calm concern. I didn’t want to start a panic.
“How about ‘Everybody, grab your pitchforks and meet us at the park?’” Mike said.
When I’m looking for serious suggestions, that’s Mike’s cue to come up with something absurd or sarcastic. Actually, that’s kind of his MO regardless of the situation. He’s usually more focused on being a comic than helpful.
It’s a gift.
At this particular moment, I think he was tossing out quips to keep from throwing something more substantial.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going for with this neighborhood alert, except a little heads up that we had an evangelist making the rounds in our ‘hood, who also happened to be a registered sex offender.
… Yeah, you read that right.
Saturday, after Mike and I had been gone most of the day, we came home as one kid was jetting out the door to catch a movie, another one was blowing off homework, eyes glued to the computer screen, and the last one was just coming home from an afternoon out. I was realizing there was a serious lack of dinner in the fridge and that every dish in the house had been sullied and strategically arranged on our counter. Apparently in homage to the magic kitchen fairy, who loves a good dirty dish tribute.
There were also a couple of printed pages lying on top of the mess. Long lines of text with penciled-in edits, which made me think someone left his homework out whilst wreaking havoc on my kitchen.
I read the first couple of paragraphs. Yeesh. Dark stuff.
For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.
– Proverbs 5:21-23
This better freaking NOT be someone’s schoolwork, or else I needed to schedule a session with someone of authority on campus, pronto.
Neither kid who was home at the time knew anything about it. The third was at a movie. Were his friends grooming him for a cult? If so, they were going to have to come to grips with the fact that their prospective protégé doesn’t read long strings of text that don’t involve descriptions of video game battles or zombie warfare.
There was a name at the bottom of ever page: Scott Cadman, with a number and an email address. So I Googled him.
… aaand found him, easily enough. On the county registry, with a string of convictions, all about 25 years or so ago.
Oh and on a 2011 state supreme court docket – an effort to get reclassified from violent sexual predator to just sex offender.
There were also a couple articles about Mr. Cadman making waves around town by spreading the Good News with his name and number printed at the bottom. Something our local police confirmed for me when I called.
“Yes, we hear about Mr. Cadman almost every week,” the officer said.
When Jack was home, I confirmed with him that this literature did make it to our house via a door-to-door evangelist. I pulled up the guy’s mug shot up online, and Jack confirmed the creepy looking dude was the one who’d talked with him about whether he was a Christian.
We do get a fair number of door-to-door visitors in our neighborhood. I’ve been a fundraiser for a lot of years and have done enough canvassing for political candidates to know asking people to listen to your two-minute pitch is about as easy as convincing a stranger to give up a kidney. So I try to be nice. I take their pamphlets and blessings. I figure if someone’s faith is strong enough to compel such a completely crappy activity on a weekend afternoon, I can be respectful.
So the kids have probably seen either or both of their parents making time for complete strangers. I just can’t be rude to people on my doorstep.
Then again, until now, none of our neighborhood prosthelytizers have been registered sex offenders, or at least, not that they’ve let us know.
Sex offenders in our state have to register their address and can’t work for a daycare center or a school. Beyond that, Mr. Cadman isn’t breaking any law taking his message door-to-door, a fact I confirmed with the tired-sounding police officer.
I’m pretty conflicted on this. I’d like to think I’m open-minded, that people can pay a debt to society and turn over a new leaf. Things get a little murkier for me when my kids are part of the equation.
Why put his name at the bottom of the page? He has to know people will be curious. Is his transparency coupled with the message part of some sort of penance? Does he want to actually inspire further conversation?
I rather think not. When a local television station asked Scott Cadman whether he understood how much he was freaking people out, he said he’d never been convicted in our state, and if they were going to be such fussbudgets they should move to gated communities.
That sounds pretty snotty for a penitent. I’m a parent, I’d recognize that tone from a mile away.
If I had the chops, I’d call and ask whether he thought his status may override his message, or what. But I don’t. The thought of engaging with this guy creeps me out about as much as the thought of his conversation with my kid.
Which leaves me with a highly unsatisfying end to this story. And my neighborhood email went unsent to boot, when someone else – someone clearly less prone to overthinking – sent out a polite “heads up.”
Nothing panic inspiring. No mention of pitchforks at all.
I told Mike I was struggling with how to wrap up this story about a sexual predator and the concept of penance. And of course, Mr. Snarky-solution-to-everything had a ready answer.
“How about you just say ‘The End,’” he said.
So there you go.
Your vote would most decidedly not be creepy. Thank you.
Photo by: Francis Storr