Thursday, March 13, 2014


"What will you give in exchange for your soul?"

Three times a week I walk past the evangelist's table in the student union, with its banner announcing this question in bold lettering. Sometimes I come very close to approaching the display and talking to the man. I want to attempt a conversation.

Other times I just want to reserve a table right beside his, posing a different question: "What will you give in exchange for a cookie?"

I'll never actually pursue such a bake sale. His question—originally asked by Jesus—isn't nearly as amusing as it is terrifying, and it's followed up by a second question posted on his banner: "Are you going to heaven?" It is that dilemma that kept me awake at night when I was nine and ten and eleven. Am I going to heaven? Now and then the query still keeps me up.

One late-fall afternoon when I reluctantly pass the table the man's young daughter is helping him pack up the familiar banner and books. She smiles shyly at bundled-up skeptic me. She whispers something to her dad. Then comes his gentle reply, in reference to what I deduce to be my snowflaked winter hat: “Yes, hers is just like yours.” Chastened, I feel my face return her joy, and for a moment these eternal worries fade to grace.

"Compassion and gratitude come down from God," Simone Weil writes, "and when they are exchanged in a glance, God is present at the point where the eyes of those who give and those who receive meet."

This is just outside Laramie, Wyoming, where I wrote the above. Circa 2010.