No. 222 - Have you read the good book?


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This one's from my Park Slope days, circa November, 2018. The audio and text are linked in our profile.


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Curlew Quarterly

April 1st, 2020

What is discernment when walking the streets of Brooklyn?

It's understanding who to stop and chat with and when to keep walking.

It's an art of course it's not a science.

If they're standing beside a sign that asks a question about the bible or a question about god, you can stop if you want but you know where the conversation is going: have you heard the good news?

One Saturday two Novembers ago I was walking in Park Slope, one of the side streets, not one of the avenues and not one of the cross side streets that are numbered.

It wasn't Carroll Street.

It might have been Garfield Place.

I was reading a book, a book that I had just found at the end of a stoop, a book about the American economy and social structures, a book from the 1970s.

And this man, this man in a black suit with white shoes who was carrying a bible asked me what book I was reading.

I showed him the cover and kept walking.

He started walking alongside me, not as much following me, but still, wanting to make sure he could get his word in, his word about god.

I can't remember everything he said, or everything that I said.

Really, it was almost two years ago.

And as best as I could I was trying to use discernment –––– trying to keep walking but he was persistent and also kind.

He had a kindness about him.

And I couldn't completely brush him off.

Or I didn't want to completely brush him off.

Back off! I could have said, or . . .

Not today!

I told him more about the book that I was reading.

It was a book that I had just started reading so I didn't know that much about it.

And it's a book that I thought I'd read later, but now it's a book that I can't find.

I don't know where that book is.

It might be in the CubeSmart storage bin on Third Avenue, the one that I'm renting.

The one where most of my books are today.

But this man, this man who wanted to talk with me about god, who wanted to ask me whether I'd been saved, and who wanted to invite me to church ––– he was walking with me through Park Slope, down Garfield Street and it was cold outside but that didn't matter very much to this man.

He didn't mind the cold and maybe I didn't mind the company.

The introduction of the book that I was reading included a few lines about the changing family dynamics in American life in the 1970s.

More mothers were working outside of the home, and what would become of America's youth as a result?

Who would we grow up to be?

When I told the man in the black suit with white shoes about this part of the book he said that was an interesting question.

He also asked me what I thought god would think of that question.

And I didn't answer.

Where is that man right now?

Where is he today?

Is he in Park Slope?

Standing on a corner with his bible and asking people who walk by about the books they're reading?

I didn't answer his question. We had reached Fifth Avenue and I was almost home again.

He left me with one thought.

That sounds like a good book, he said, but there's one book that's above all other books –––– have you read the good book?

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