Strange ways

This message and coins was delivered on a Seaside street.

A couple of weeks ago my husband was walking down the street with one of our dogs when a car slowed down beside him. The car stopped and the window opened so the driver could speak to him.

For a moment my husband thought it was someone in need of directions. But that wasn’t it.

The driver rolled down his window. He stuck his hand outside the car and offered it. In his hand was a scrap of paper with some writing printed on it. Without his glasses, the print was too tiny for my husband to read. In addition to the paper, the man passed him five gold-colored coins. He said, “Here, use this for a cup of coffee.”

When he got home, my husband laid the scrap of paper and the coins on the table. The coins, we saw, were those $1 coins they give you as change at the car wash. They look fake as heck, but they are legal tender. I put on my glasses and looked at the scrap of paper, which was about the size of those fortunes that come baked in fortune cookies.

Did you see what this says? I asked.

It was a passage from the Bible, specifically Jeremiah 6:16.

“Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

Forty years ago when I was in my twenties and living in New York City, there was no end of people spreading the word of God. Bible messengers, I called them. Some stood on street corners and relayed their message via bullhorn. Quite a few of them hung out around Port Authority, the major bus terminal, where they competed with pimps and hustlers to snag the attention of young people coming to the big city from everywhere in the country.

Because I often walked to my editorial job on the Upper East Side from my apartment in lower Manhattan, I daily passed through great throngs of people, a surprising number of them handing out messages, often on flyers. It was the Reverend Sun Myung Moon years, and also a big time for Hare Krishna.

Sometimes it was unnerving how many caring and concerned people were handing messages to me.

Looking back, I understand it was probably my youth and my appearance that made me look like someone who could use spiritual guidance. Like many New Yorkers, my wardrobe was mostly black clothing. I also had a carefully cultivated attitude of bleak indifference, which served me well at the time in both my professional and personal engagements. Nobody ever gave me money, however. If they had, I would have spent it on coffee, which at the time was 50 cents.

I flipped over the tiny scrap of paper that man gave my husband and read some handwritten words. In addition to the Jeremiah 6:36, there was a message from John 3:16.

“Do you know that God loves you?”

Not a bad thing to know. And I still might use the money for coffee, which if you like a grande latte or a double shot cappuccino, could easily run you five bucks.

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