This story, through a strange series of events, was kind of thrown onto my lap, begging me to write it. This is the play “The Hope of Christmas” through the eyes of the character I am acting, Gwen.
Gwen: A park regular, she spends much of her time reading on a bench by the newsstand. She is searching for something to give her life more meaning, so she has read and tried it all and become intellectually argumentative.
Excerpt from Scene 1:
Charlie: You gonna buy that or what?
Gwen: Yeah, I think so, just like every day. Just hang on a second.
Charlie: Yeah, but while I wait for you, I lose business!
Gwen: Hold your horses, will you?
Charlie: Horses I don’t got; overhead I do. Now, is that what you’re buying or what?
Gwen: Cool it Charlie!
Charlie: This isn’t a library you know; you gotta buy the merchandise! I’ve got hungry kids at home.
Gwen: Here, I’ll buy this one. It’s got a follow up article on the alternative extension of the new wave of self-realizing psychological affirmations.
Charlie: I’m sure it does Gwen. But I wish you would self-realize faster; I’ve got a business to run here!
Gwen: Charlie, you know I’m good for it. I’ve only bought a ton of stuff from you over the years!
Charlie: Yeah, I’ll admit it –you’re my best customer.
Gwen: Here, I want this one too.
Charlie: Just giving you a hard time. What is it this time? Self-help? Metaphysics? Astrology?
Gwen: Oh, no, just an old read on finding your inner child.
Charlie: Well, I hope you find her this time.
Gwen: Me too –or I may just go catch a Zumba class.
Charlie: There you go.
Gwen: And what’s this bunk about hungry kids at home? Your kids are all grown –you don’t have to feed them anymore.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah, but I wish I did. Let a lonely old man live in his delusions, all right?
Gwen: Haven’t heard from them recently huh?
Charlie: Not a call, not a card. Nothing.
Gwen: You know, this is a lot like what the author of Learning to Live in a Lonely World was talking about when he said that most older American’s often find that—
Charlie: Okay, okay Gwen. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy sometime, but right now I need to help my other customers.
Gwen: Okay Charlie –hang in there!
December 22, 2012
Three days until Christmas. You can almost feel the excitement and the palpable sense of “spiritual” renewal in the air as people go about their day with all the usual holiday cheer. Maybe that’s why Charlie’s jibe about all the, in his words, “self-help, metaphysics, and astrology” books I read hit me so hard this morning. I almost couldn’t pay attention to the book I was reading –I skimmed over several paragraphs that I had to go back and re-read because my mind had wandered off. I’m always looking to better myself, but I hadn’t realized how pathetically obvious it was what I was doing. If the owner of the newsstand where I get a newspaper and a book or two every once in a while realized what I was doing, who else had noticed and just hasn’t said anything?
It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with reading those types of books, or even that there’s anything wrong with self-help in general. It’s just, well, it’s just that I don’t want anyone thinking I’m looking for religion. I haven’t had anything to do with religion since I was old enough to realize how silly all of it is. I don’t need God, Mohammed, Buddha, or anyone else telling me how to live my life. Only uneducated and gullible people believe the religious jargon all of them spew out.
Nope, religion certainly isn’t anything a smart young woman like myself would get taken in by, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think any differently of me.
Excerpt from Scene 2:
Pastor Tom: Good afternoon Gwen.
Pastor Tom: How are you today?
Gwen: I’m fine.
Pastor Tom: Nice talking to you Gwen.
Gwen: The same.
Charlie: Pastor, I don’t know why you even try. She never talks to you.
Pastor Tom: I know, but one of these days she might.
Charlie: She’s just not interested in what you’re selling.
Pastor Tom: Well, she’s tried what everyone else is selling. One of these days, I’ll break through.
Charlie: Don’t hold your breath. I’ve known her for years. She’s read every book you can imagine on religion, psychology…you name it. She could probably tell you a few things.
Pastor Tom: And I’ll let her, as soon as she starts talking to me!
Charlie: Sure thing.
Pastor Tom: There’s always hope.
December 23, 2012
This is getting a little ridiculous. Ever since the Park Baptist Church decided they were going to do their little annual Christmas program in the park, that Pastor has apparently taken it upon himself to convert all of us park regulars into Bible thumpin’ believers like him. I really wish he would get the picture already and leave us alone. Unfortunately ignoring him and giving him the cold shoulder doesn’t seem to be working any.
I overheard him talking/discussing/arguing the topic of hope (of all things) with Benjamin today by the newsstand. After the pastor talked to the kid who’s been hanging around lately (and who talked with typical teenaged attitude) Benjamin suggested he try talking to Fran. That was certainly an interesting conversation –or lack thereof—but somehow the Pastor was more discouraged by Benjamin’s apathy than Jason and Fran’s outright rejection. Despite how they treated him, he still had hope they’d come around! I just don’t get how anyone would be willing to continue under such adverse circumstances, much less have the strength and endurance to do so. Doesn’t he ever give up?
Maybe I should try religion again. The Pastor is certainly finding some kind of strength in it.
Excerpt from Scene 4:
Pastor Tom: Here Gwen, our Christmas Eve program is about to begin. Why don’t you take a break from your books and take a peek?
Gwen: You never give up, do you?
Pastor Tom: No, I don’t. I want you to know what I know.
Gwen: I know plenty already.
Pastor Tom: You don’t know about this.
Gwen: And what is that?
Pastor Tom: That Jesus was born, and He came to give us hope for the future…and that through Him, we can really live.
Gwen: I know all about Christianity. I’ve probably read a dozen books on the subject, including the Bible, cover to cover.
Pastor Tom: But reading about it is very different than knowing it. Reading it is just words, but really experiencing the presence of God in your life…All it takes is believing in who Jesus really is.
Gwen: I’m sorry. Life is more complicated than that. I’ve spent years searching my soul, expanding my mind, getting in touch with the universe in which we live. Our world is complicated. Christianity is too simple.
Pastor Tom: This is about religion; it’s about a relationship. Jesus is there in a way everyone can understand. That’s the beauty of it. He’s there for anyone who seeks Him, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand Him. Why don’t you stick around for our program?
Gwen: Don’t count on anything happening.
Pastor Tom: That’s not up to me Gwen. Just stick around.
December 24, 2012
And that through Him, we can really live. Ever since the Pastor invited me to the Christmas Eve play earlier, those words have been echoing over and over in my head. Am I really living? Is my constant search for knowledge keeping me from really living my life? He said Christianity was there for everyone, no matter who they are or how smart they are. It seems almost ridiculously simple. Almost stupidly simple really. Could something that simple be true? I’ve been searching my entire life –has the answer been staring me in the face this whole time?
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being gullible. But the Pastor sure seems convinced, and he’s certainly not stupid. He doesn’t seem gullible either; a little naïve maybe, but not gullible.
Maybe it’s time to give Christianity a second look. Maybe this time I’ll understand what the Pastor meant by knowing it instead of just reading it. I’ve got nothing to lose, right?
Based on Lifeway’s production “The Hope of Christmas“.