Saturday, January 19, 2013

the limelight

So I’m sitting in a hotel room that I think is in Evansville, Indiana. I left my sister’s house at noon and I hope to be at my Uncle’s house in Murphy, North Carolina at 6 pm tomorrow evening. Murphy is where Eric Randolph was captured behind the Save-A-Lot grocery store while digging through the dumpster looking for food. Randolph was the bomber of the Olympic Games in Atlanta in the summer of 1996. He also bombed several abortion clinics and a gay bar. Until surpassed by the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, the hunt for Randolph was the FBI's biggest ever. And all the time, he had been living out behind my uncle’s house, sustaining himself on salamanders and out-dated food. Randolph was suspected of being part of an ultra-right wing Christian cult known as the Identity Movement. But actually he was simply part of that common segment of humanity who want people to look at them. While Randolph was on the run, he brother took a video of himself cutting off his hand with a band saw—supposedly to make some statement about his brother, but ostensibly because it gave him a chance to grab some of his brother’s limelight. (Thankfully, the American medical profession was able to reattach his hand and the Lord graciously healed it.)

I suppose I’m a limelighter too. Otherwise, why this blog? But, typically, when in a group, I look for a good comfortable spot within the woodwork.

My niece had a birthday party at my sister’s house a couple days back. A group of about 15 people were there. My sister’s youngest daughter has a passion and a gift to make sure that everyone is included, so she would pointedly ask questions to the quieter ones at the table to bring them into the group conversation. As part of this process, she asked me several good questions and, to my great annoyance, I was tongue tied. I could stammer out one or two words and only after the attention went to someone else, I could think of something to say.

 But on my trip, I’ve been able to listen to others without any coercion to converse. At the continental breakfast nook I heard one stranger talking to another man who, moments before, had been a stranger to him. “I’m so sorry to hear you mom died. My dad died about a year ago. I was surprised how I didn’t take it all that hard. He lived a good life. He was almost 100.” The desk clerk (I think he was also the manager of the Hotel) came in to greet the three of us in the continental nook room. “Good morning,” he said. No response. (I never respond) “Good morning,” he said again. I looked up and saw he was Indian. I nodded at him and smiled an acknowledgement. The talkative man looked up and went on with his conversation. “I don’t know why they call this life. We’re all dying. And it goes so fast. They should call it like ‘short term life’ or ‘this is your moment.’" The man continued, “I’m not a theologian or nothing. But I really like—do you read the Bible? I know I swear like a sailor, but I really believe this stuff-- Well, there’s this Psalm 121: ‘I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence commeth my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.’ You think about that.”

Before going to back to my room I did go and talk to this Indian man. I could tell from his accent that he was an immigrant. “Where are you from?” I asked. He told me he came here from Mumbai ten years ago. I told him my son-in-law was also from Mumbai. He asked what my son-in-law did and I told him. “But,” I said, “his brother returned to India.” When I told him he was working for a Christian organization, his faced dropped. Perhaps he had already encountered too many Christians America. Perhaps like me, the limelight was not his thing, but to be disregarded was not his thing either.

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