Surprise and Discernment
While I was chatting with a customer I saw a lady picking up each book, thumb through it, read a little, look at the back and move to the next book, smiling. We finally met face to face alone. Still smiling, she said how nice to meet me! She said, “I notice that all your books are Franciscan-themed.”
I stammered, “Uh, I don’t know, really, what do you mean?” She ignored my question and picked up Bread Upon the Water.
“I’m going to take this one. I’m going to use it in my formation classes.” She handed me her business card. “Do you know what Secular Franciscans are,” she asked? I didn’t. She briefly explained. Her card said she was Director of Formation for the Secular Franciscans. She told me how to find the website and hoped I’d spend some time in discernment.
“Discernment?” She flashed the most wonderful smile; I will never forget it.
“Your books are lovely. All of them. And on every page I find Franciscan. If you bare to your soul, my dear, you will find a Franciscan soul. My number is on the card. Call me.”
I haven’t forgotten her, her smile or her words. At the CMN Conference I was able to find some books about St. Francis and also Pope Francis. I talked to an author who is a secular Dominican. I told her this story and she advised, “I think you should take that seriously. Very seriously.”
What I wonder is how that stranger knew so much about me. How did she know I was even Catholic? How did she know I would care about her message? What did she see in me that made her think of this? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m glad my faith shined through my grime and every-day dullness and she was able to see it. What if I’d been snarly or used bad language or dressed immodestly. Would she have said these things? Would she have seen my faith then? When I was in college it was the Catholic girls in my dorm whose faith shone on me and led me to their Church, discernment and conversion. They’d probably be surprised to know that.
Authors have a wonderful opportunity to meet lots of different kinds of people. I’ve blogged about some of them and the good times I’ve had meeting strangers. I look at that opportunity as trumping the chance to sell my books. I’m grateful for both, of course.
I’ve advised authors to be open to the strangers who are interested in your books. And I’ve also advised you to bring your faith with you to your signing table. Let your readers see it when they look at you and your books. They may not share your faith, but they can see Christianity in you and in your work. It may ignite a bit of discernment. It’s a lovely surprise when that happens.