Douglas Coupland, the Good Samaritan and Bizarreness at Missions Fest

The Good Samaritan by Paula Modersohn-Becker

                                                   Cast of Characters:

                               Me, tired, very sore shoulder, grumpy (suspect I was channelling Doc Martin, having binged on the tv show the previous week).

                                  The Two Arabs            The Cheery Couple

                                  The Intense Man           The Sick Woman

                       Missions Fest – largest Christian missions conference in Canada

                                               Reason for being there:
                  1. Stand at A Rocha booth and pepper passerbys with creation care propoganda.
                  2. Participate in Book Signing later in the evening.

I arrived at Missions Fest at 6 pm on Saturday night and felt like I was stepping into an alternate universe – a very cheery Christian universe. It felt alternate because I was not feeling particularly cheery or even Christian. The alternate universe theme played out, like a Douglas Coupland novel, through the entire evening and though I am still not sure how the sequence of events quite relate to one another, I share them now in the order and veracity in which they happened, that together we might make some sense of them.

I began the evening in surveillance, walking at top speed, without making eye contact, through the maze of booths, on the lookout for any long lost friends. Mid-stride I was stopped by two men with thick Arabic accents. They asked for directions to someplace far away, which tipped me off to the fact that they had no idea where they were, and I wondered if they knew they’d landed in the lions’ den. I asked where they were from. Iraq, they said. I apologized for the US bombing of their country. They said not to worry, it wasn’t my fault. And then the thicker and balder of the two took my hand and told me I was very beautiful. Which was unexpected. I said I was also very married, smiled and scooted back to the booth. And hid behind the A Rocha banner for a few minutes.

Soon it was time to take my seat at the book signing. I was joined by Mark Buchannan, best-selling author of lots and lots of books. A steady stream of people qued up to buy Mark’s books and get them signed. No one lined up to purchase mine.

I was tempted to start humming and swinging my legs in an “Oh, isn’t this fun,” sort of way. I was also tempted to hide behind my iphone, but somehow I thought that might look tacky so instead smiled bravely at people as they passed quickly by, avoiding eye contact. Finally a couple took pity on me and approached.

“We recognize you,” they said. “We were at your book launch at Regent College.”

Oh hurray, I thought. Comrades!

They went on to tell me how much they loved the book launch party, especially the food, and all the books they bought at the Regent bookstore. It quickly became obvious that mine had not been amoung those books purchased. Nor was it going to be purchased this night. Oh well, at least they were talking to me, and they were friendly. I imagined us going on chatting like this for a long while, maybe even throughout the entire book signing. That would be pleasant.

But then, a cherub-faced little girl, led by the hand of her father, walked by. She giggled and winked and drew them to herself like flies to a web.

Don’t go play with that little girl, I wanted to yell. Stay with me! Tell me more about all those other books you bought!

But alas, they left. And I, shoulder aching, throat sore, ears becoming sore too now, went back to smiling, a little more feebly, at the stream of humanity that flowed around me.

Then a man strode straight up to me with a brusqueness that implied mental instability. “What time are you leaving?” he blurted.

“Uh, I need to sit here til 9:30,” I said, bewildered.

“Well, there’s a woman sick with food poisoning, can you take her home?”

Me?! I thought. Why me?! I’m sick too -- with shame and shoulder problems and a sore throat.

I suggested he ask that an announcement be made, which it was. But, go figure, there were no takers. So he returned, and pressed me for a commitment. What was a Christian girl to do? The morning conference session had probably been on the Good Samaritan. Of course, I’d take her home.

I found her in the lunch room hunched over a big black trash can. I approached. She looked up at me with wide, kind eyes.

“Are you the author?” she asked in a voice just above a whisper.

“Uh, yes,” I said, wondering when writing a book qualified one as a paramedic.

We made our way slowly to my car. She talked the whole way, pausing ever few minutes to take deep breaths. I told her she didn’t need to talk. I told her that when I was ill I didn’t like to talk. I liked in fact to retreat to a dark cave within myself and sit very still and very mute. But this woman was not a cave-dweller. She was a believer in God’s providence. And she was grateful, and positive and sincere. She was also still in the throes of food poisoning, but happily for both of us she’d brought a little white barf bag and a medical blanket to cover the seat. Both were needed on the drive home. Having just come through the stomach flu the week previous and having a sympathetic constitution I started to feel ill myself, complete with saliva glands watering. I wondered if she’d find it alarming or too chilly if I rolled down my window and drove with my head out of the car like a Golden Retriever.

We made it to her home, all windows rolled up and only one barf bag in use. She took my card and said she’d visit A Rocha with her niece. She was full of faith. Full of gratitude. I have never met such a thankful person. Even between throwing up, practically in the midst of throwing up, she was thanking me for the ride and thanking God for her normally good health.

I returned home, an hour later than I had intended, throat still sore, shoulder still throbbing, but a little less grumpy and I wondered who had actually been ministering to whom. I wondered who, actually, had played the lead role in this Good Samaritan parable?

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