Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moldy Pastures, Stagnant Waters and a Restored Soul

I don't normally take well to being "saved" on the subway.

Like any New Yorker, I value subway time as special "me" time, where I can blast my ipod or bury my nose in a book and avoid the chaos around me. But alas, I had finished my book on an earlier ride and my ipod was not extremely appealing this afternoon. So, when the sweet, southern girl next to me, aptly named Angela, handed me a pamphlet and asked if I would like some reading material, I took it. Why not brush up on Psalm 23...it's been awhile since I've had to recite it by rote.

So, of course, Angela and I got to talking. At first the small talk niceties, where are you from, what are you doing in New York (although I could tell she was with a church group from the moment I sat down), are you enjoying your time here, etc. And then, as I knew she would, Angela asked me "Do you believe that, if you died today, you'd go to heaven?" Because I expected the question I was completely honest, "I have no idea. I don't even know if I believe in heaven. It's not that I definitely don't, but I can't be sure that I do." It's not something that comes out of my mouth often, and I can't say that it shocks me when it does, but it is interesting to hear out loud. We continued talking, and then Angela said something that I hear all the time, but for some reason held more weight than usual -- "Well, I know for sure that I am saved." I smiled, and at that moment, I realized that I was so happy for this complete stranger not because she was "saved," but because SHE KNEW she was saved. This knowledge clearly made her life all the better, which in turn made me happy as well. It's not that I envy her conviction in salvation -- it's not something I'm looking for at this point in my life -- it's that I believe that all people should be so lucky to live by what it takes to make them a good person.

As Vonnegut wrote, in what I hold as the ultimate view of tolerance: "Live by the foma* that makes you brave and kind and healthy and happy."

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