LITTLE ROCK, AR - When it comes to greeting church members each Sunday morning, no one is more committed to the craft than Bert Dempsey, who has held the prime double-door spot for greeting at Solid Rock Church for the past 18 years. Every Lord's Day, Dempsey awakes before dawn and begins a ritual of stretches and calisthenics to ensure his mind and body are tip-top shape for shaking hundreds of hands.
Finally, this Sunday morning, his intense training was put to the test. A first-time visitor who was running late slipped by him and made a beeline for the foyer doors as the greeters all stood around chatting by the welcome center.
But Dempsey was ready. He sprang from his post with lightning speed, closing the thirty-yard gap between him and the visitor in seconds, according to onlookers, before finally launching from the balls of his feet like a jungle cat and crumpling the visitor to the floor.
"Nobody gets by me without a smile and a handshake!" he growled into the man's ear as he rolled on the ground in pain. "Now stand up and let me cheerily greet you in the joy of the Lord!"
As the man shakily rose to his feet and dusted himself off, Dempsey smiled, shook his hand, and handed him a program, saying, "Good morning! It's great to have you with us!" before darting back to his post to ensure no one else would get by.
"I haven't let anybody get by me since the Clinton administration," he told reporters with a chuckle later on. "I'm not about to break my streak for some introverted punk who can't stop for three seconds for a good old-fashioned, man-to-man handshake and a bulletin."