On being witnessed. George and his bible.

I've been working hard to get my garden set up at my new place. I've planned 4 raised bed gardens of about 48 square feet each, plus various flower beds and such. I've put in an order for 220 cubic feet of loamy soil and am waiting for it to arrive right now.
But earlier this morning I had stopped by the garden center to pick up some last minute items. Some vermiculite and peat moss to add to the incoming soil. Some stakes for the raised bed box, a little grass killer for the grass in the sidewalk cracks... that kind of thing.
And I was listening to the "Oh No, Ross and Carrie" skeptic podcast on my phone earbuds while shopping.  This skeptical podcast is recorded at the Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles.  In this particular episode, Ross and Carrie are discussing atheism in their interview with Roger Nygard (author of "The Nature of Existence").  Mr. Nygard was just describing his interview with Richard Dawkins, and I was in the process of choosing a couple of brilliantly colored pansies (flowers of freethought), when I was interrupted.
A gentleman that I recognized came up to me.  I know this guy from where I work.  I know he works on the factory floor, and isn't really part of Engineering.  We recognize each other, but I don't actually know what he does at our company.
I turned off the podcast and we shook hands.  To protect his privacy, (and because I can't recall his name until I look him up in the company directory) I'll call him "George".
George seemed nervous.  He told me that he saw me in the garden center as he was walking to his car.
"... And something told me that I had to come back and give you this."
This was a orange, soft-bound copy of the New Testament by the Gideons.
George was obviously nervous.  He had apparently screwed up his courage to get me this bible.
He flipped to the back, where the Gideons had created a sort of "FAQ" - the sinner's guide to salvation - and said that any question that I had could be answered here.
"Why thank you George!"  But I couldn't just leave it, I had to ask.  "Just what made you think to give this to me?"
"I just got this feeling that you needed it" he said.
I shook his hand again, and thanked him again.  I kept thinking, "say something nice!  He's really nervous!"
"I always appreciate it when someone gives me a bible."
"Idiot" I thought - "that was so lame!"  Sort of true though.  I've received several bibles from various preachers and people doing witnessing.
But I wanted to be nice to George.  I have done witnessing before, and I know how hard it can be to screw up your courage and actually talk to people.  There was no way I was going to disrespect George by telling him that I have a whole bookshelf of bibles.  That I'd just bought another commentary on the bible for my Kindle e-reader.  I also didn't mention that I have 3 hard-bound copies of the Gideon Bible (old & new Testament) on my desk right now.
I also didn't mention that I was an out atheist at work, that my photo was on page 3 of the local newspaper this year, and that I've been interviewed by several TV stations this and last year.  Why did he think I needed the bible?  Either he "knew" because he knew I was an atheist, or because he subconsciously remembered seeing me.  Or maybe God did guide him.  Who knows?
But I wasn't going to slap him down for doing something that he thinks is kind. He's not malevolent, or stupid.
Merely wrong.
The dirt arrived.  Off to the shovels!

4 comments:

GDad said...

Is there a way you can return the favor with a gift of something that might gently provide George with some exposure to other views?

Calladus said...

That sounds like a good idea... but I wonder if it would be appreciated.

Peter Wall said...

I've tried giving people a copy of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. It does not seem to make a difference.

GDad said...

If you do end up giving George a gift, and there's any kind of response, we'd love to hear about it.