There is a diner in Hot Springs, North Carolina, frequented by locals and motorcycle riders just passing though town. I happened upon it while attending the Wild Goose Festival. I loved eating there. My friend, Casey O’Leary, joked that I would never come home because there was no Smokey Mountain Diner in Indianapolis.
I liked it because it was “exactly right.” What does that mean? It was unpretentious. They had a bookshelf with books for the kids to read. The food was good home cooking. The women working there were friendly, and they helped each other out. The local people coming in to eat stopped to say hello to all the other local people who were already sitting down. Women walked by in aprons and baseball caps and cheerfully asked, “How y’all doin’? Y’all need anythin’?” The gal at the register asked me, “How was everything?” and looked me in the eye while I answered. The gentleman who let me in line ahead of him to pay, responded to my words about how much I like the feel of the town with, “We’re proud to have ya here.” In that diner there was authenticity. I’m a sucker for authenticity.
I made Casey eat there every day.
Casey and I were having dinner one night and had just given up on our fried dill pickle chips appetizer (which was very yummy, but was too much for us to finish). Four young people wearing the telltale Wild Goose wristbands came in and sat down in the booth across from us. I offered the rest of our appetizer to them and they gratefully accepted.
I think this is when Casey might have rolled her eyes. At that point, she’d been around me long enough to know that this was how it begins. And it did.
There were two women and two men, Melissa, Sharon, Tom, and Will. Melissa (that’s Rev. Melissa Cooper, the program director at The Life Enrichment Center, a retreat facility in Fruitland, Florida) made the mistake of innocently asking me about the Christian Feminism Today logo on my shirt. The four of them were very patient as I recounted the history of EEWC and why I loved it so much.
We talked until it was time for Casey and me to leave.
Sharon asked me a very thought-provoking question which I promised to answer here on Where She Is, and I will do so in the near future. She asked how I had maintained my Christian faith despite the trials associated with figuring out that I was a lesbian back in the 70s and consequently being unwelcome in the church. The short answer is, “I didn’t.” At least not the way I think she intended the question. The long answer is a whole lot more intimate, messy, and maybe interesting. It’s an answer I want to share with Sharon and with you in a forthcoming post.
Talking to these four people, over a delicious meal in an unpretentious and authentic diner in rural North Carolina, is exactly why I came to the Wild Goose Festival.
See, I didn’t come to Wild Goose because of all the “big name” people who were scheduled to speak. I can buy their books, and watch their videos, and learn all about them on the internet. They don’t have to know me personally, and I don’t have to know them. That’s not the work they do.
But there’re a whole lot of you I have to know personally, if I am to know you at all. And really, I want to know you. Because I am certain that I will find such hope and grace in your story, in your presence, in the look in your eyes. Knowing you is the way I convince myself that we are all going to be okay. When you don’t know me, but you stop and meet my heart right where we are standing, I know we are all made of the same stuff— holy stuff that simply must connect, even for just a few minutes, with more of that holy stuff. And I desperately need to be reminded— every single day— that we are made of that holy stuff.
Thank you, Melissa, Sharon, Tom, and Will. Thank you, Peyton, Teresa, and Wendy. Thank you, Jared. Thank you, Beth, Aaron, Renee, and Aim Me. Thank you, Peggy. Thank you, James. Thank you, Sharon and Candice. My gratitude to each of you for reminding me.