January 30, 2009

It's my day to work in the store.

I’m sitting in the office—which is crammed with all the stuff that it takes to run Christ the Lightgiver—but just over to my right is a spot on the wall where we’ve started posting our Letters from Famous People. As you probably know, we’ve started inviting various people to speak at some of our bookstore events—and we’ve sent some invitations to some really high-caliber folks. A few of them have accepted; a few of them haven’t; a few of them told us that they would have to get back with us. But, so far, those who have declined our invitation have responded with some very nice letters. Rebekah posted part of a note that we received from Wendell Berry a couple of weeks ago. And just this past week we got a long, personal letter from Eugene Peterson explained why he won’t be able to stop by the store this summer (I’ll share some of that letter with you in another entry).

So what makes us think that a tiny little independent operation like Christ the Lightgiver could possibly get people like Wendell Berry and Eugene Peterson to show up for a speaking engagement?

Because we believe in the Norman Wilson principle. Norman was one of my father’s high school buddies. This was back in the late 1940’s in Farmersville, Texas, so there were only, like, 25 people in my father’s graduating class, and Norman was, by far, the shortest. But one day this new girl moved to town; she was really tall and really good-looking, and the first day she showed up at school, my father and Norman and a few of their other friends just happened to be standing out on the front steps of the building. The young lady walked by; the young men stood there, admiring her, but, then, Norman suddenly walked away. My father asked him where he was going. Norman turned, and, with a big grin on his face, said, “I’m gonna find me a step ladder and ask her for a date.”

I actually don’t know if Norman ever went on that date, but we approach our potential speakers the very same way: we just get out our step ladder and crawl up there and ask them if they’ll join us at the best bookstore in Central Texas. So the next time you’re in the store, ask to go back in the office and check out the Letters from Famous People. You’ll be amazed at the folks who’ve been corresponding with us—and, who knows? They may still end up speaking at one of our events.

fr. aidan


Carol said...

A tale of a long-shot letter to a big-shot:

Several years ago my husband, Landon, and I were working to persuade the Nature Conservancy, or any willing conservation organization, to purchase a tract of land in Brazoria County on which stood some rare native palm trees. Landon did most of the head-work, researched and even published an article in a botanical journal (with no formal education in botany). He had the palms analyzed by a noted palm expert from the Smithsonian (who travelled all the way to Texas to study the palms during their seed producing season.) I had repeatedly braved poison ivy, waist-high thorn patches, wriggled through barbed wire, waded through ankle-deep muck while toting several pounds of camera equipment and then perched on a ladder (I hate ladders!) to get the best possible photos of the palms (which were also published).

Despite all this work over the span of several years, we were getting nowhere. Everyone said there was no money available for this purchase. The "for sale" sign remained on the land and we feared a developer would buy it and chop out all the trees.

So, Landon wrote President Bush. This was Bush Sr who sat in the oval office at the time. We both figured the letter was a long shot and, sure enough, we never got an answer.

BUT ... a few months later, out of the blue, a representative of U.S. Fish and Wildlife contacted my husband about the palm trees. We don't know for sure (and were afraid to ask) but we wondered if George B. Sr. had forwarded Landon's letter to them.

Bush wasn't noted as a supporter of environmental causes. Who knows why he did this or if he even did it.

What we do know is this: U.S. Fish and Wildlife began to work with the Nature Conservancy and today the tract of land is part of U.S. Fish and Wildlife's San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.

LifeGivingSpring said...

Entertaining story (your good with those). It never hurts to ask; the worst that could happen is they'll say 'no', and you'll not be any worse off than before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I'm still available to 'speak', as I was 10 years ago when I first approached you about 'Cosmic' Orthodoxy. No ladder required. I've gotten the info together over the last decade on my own, though I'd rather have collaborated with you. info@LifeGivingSpring.info