I have met the most interesting people at Irish festivals, but at last weekend’s Dubin Irish Festival I did not expect this.
Listen, for you never know what wonders you may meet when you do.
It’s a lesson I’m continually learning. It’s way too easy to judge people by their appearance or mannerisms, or to not even notice them at all. When you are signing books in a tent with several other authors, spending hour after hour hoping you sell enough books to justify the time spent there, you notice people but maybe not for the right reasons.
The good reasons, the most valuable way to spend your time no matter where you are, is to look for who God may intend for you to meet and to respond. It’s not an easy thing to do at times. Let’s be honest. Some people go against the grain, grating on your tired nerves. But…listen when you have the opportunity, because if you don’t, you might miss something special.
An elderly couple came to my table, which was squished up against author Brenna Briggs’s books for young girls, mysteries involving an Irish dancer named Liffey Rivers. Brenna is a friend of mine. We’ve done these Irish festivals together before. (If you know of a reader in her target audience you should check out her books. http://www.liffeyrivers.com)
This particular couple intently studied a couple of my books and then some of Brenna’s. Brenna asked if they had children or grandchildren. They didn’t, but were still interested. The wife decided to buy a book from each of us. Then the husband commented on something he had seen in one of my books, Columcille. At Gethsemani, south of Louisville, Kentucky, the Irish brothers were often given the name Columcille.
Oh, right, that was where Thomas Merton was, Brenna and I remembered. We talked briefly about the man and his writings and soon it became clear that the man at our table knew quite a bit about Merton.
|Thomas Merton, known as Father Louis.|
“Did you know him?” Brenna asked.
“Oh, yes. He had a serious side, but he was very funny.” And he went on to tell a few stories as we signed books for his wife.
It turned out this man had been a Trappist monk at Gethsemani with Thomas Merton. I believe he said he was there for seven years. He obviously had moved on to other things, including getting married to the woman standing next to him who he said was “older”—by three hours, he joked. They’d been born on the same day.
|Photo by Jay Paradis|
We never would have imagined this man wearing dark sunglasses, a fishing hat, and a wide smile had been a monk or had met one of the deepest spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century, a man this fellow called “The greatest Catholic writer of the twentieth century.”
I felt blessed by the encounter and deeply honored that this couple planned to read one of my books. Our brief conversation reminded me that even those we look up to and perhaps stand in awe of are in fact ordinary people whose lives touch ordinary people who in turn move through life touching the lives of even more ordinary people, but often in extraordinary ways.
|Thomas Merton (Father Louis) at Gethsemani|
Gethsemani’s web site states: “Intently and joyfully, we live the mystery of Christ-among-us.” That’s the way to live, don’t you think?
I’ll keep trying to listen. I’m looking forward to the next surprise meeting!
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” ~ Thomas Merton