The woman was wearing a sort of little bonnet, which made me think they belonged to some religious sect. Otherwise, they were dressed conservatively but normally. The man had on long pants and a shirt with a collar. In addition to her small bonnet (think Amish woman, not Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie), the woman was wearing a nondescript blouse and a long, sedately floral skirt. Both of them had gray hair and were probably at least 70 years old.
The man didn’t have a bushy Amish style beard; he was clean cut, with no beard or mustache at all. Neither of them was wearing the style of clothing of the Amish or even the Old German Baptist Brethren. They were wearing colors. They were definitely not plain. But the bonnet was shouting Religion!
They had some question about the trail, which I answered to the best of my ability. I pointed them to the map of the trail posted at the front of the parking lot. I was helpful, but we didn’t have any great conversation. I felt no special connection to the couple.
When they returned from the trail, they had more questions. They actually drove their small pickup truck right to where I was standing and asked how to get to their next destination. The man showed me his atlas, which offered little detail of the area. I pulled out a tourist info guidebook (a freebie, filled with advertisements), which had a better map. I showed the man the best route to where they were headed, then offered him the guide book. He took it gratefully. Again, I’d been helpful, but felt no special connection to either of the people.
The man drove the truck back into the depths of the parking lot. (I suspect they were visiting the restrooms). After some time, the truck again approached the front of the parking lot. Before they got to the exit, the man again stopped the truck near me.
We’d like you to have this, the man said. He was holding a small, bright blue book with gold writing in the upper right corner. Oh no! It was a Bible—or at least a New Testament.
Is that weird? Is it weird to try to hand off the Word of God to a stranger? I guess it’s not weird to the religious people who do it. They believe they’re right, and they probably think they’re doing us heathens a favor. But being offered a Bible (or the New Testament or the Koran or the Book of Mormon or whatever) by people I’d only spoken to about maps and driving directions felt very weird to me.
I kept my cool. I smiled, shook my head and said, No thanks!
The people of God left.
After they left, I wondered if there’d been money in the little holy book. It seemed like a good trick: put money in the holy book, then laugh at the heathen when she turned it down. But that wouldn’t be a very Christian game to play. Besides, why give money to someone with a job, someone obviously tugging on her bootstraps? Maybe if they were handing the holy book to a panhandler or someone they perceived to be homeless, maybe then they’d tuck some dollars in there. But I probably hadn’t passed up anything more than holy scripture.